Laboratories rely on their advanced equipment in order to achieve the highly detailed and consistent results they achieve. Getting these results is typically a painstaking process that involves initially laboratory design capable of delivering fine details consistently and in a way that can be duplicated.
There is also a need for lab protocols that are consistent and involve everyone in the lab adhering to these protocols so that there is a consistent set of expectations within the lab. Finally the lab must be outfitted with the right equipment that supports its goals and objectives. This last part is crucial because of all of the other areas are executed perfectly, this last area will undermine the veracity of the experiments or other procedures being conducted.
Along these lines it is incumbent upon a lab to purchase specific types of equipment that fit its exact needs. It is not enough to buy a standard lab oven for example when a nitrogen oven is actually needed.
A nitrogen oven provides a specific purpose in the lab. Let’s examine this vital piece of equipment to see why it is so important to a lab.
Lab ovens use convection to create and circulate heat throughout their oven chambers. These convection ovens differ in their qualities and strengths. Some use gravity convection which is natural convection while others use some form of mechanical draft to heat the oven’s contents. The differences in the types of gravity and natural convection ovens will be in how quickly they heat, their recovery time after the oven door is opened, the level of temperature they reach, the amount of ventilation they offer, and the amount of humidity they allow.
Humidity is a big factor because water and oxygen can distort readings in a lab test. A nitrogen oven is a lab convection oven that offers an ability to lower the humidity using nitrogen, an inert gas.
To understand any process using inert gases, you have to understand the composition of air; the Earth’s most abundant gas. Air is approximately 78% nitrogen, 20.9% oxygen and 0.9% argon, with small amounts of other gases, along with varying amounts of water vapor. Water vapor may go up to around 4%, and of course, at this level, it will dilute the other levels of gases by (96/100).
Oxygen can cause contamination in the lab and therefore nitrogen is the standard medium for maintaining a contamination-free environment because it is relatively inert – it neither reacts with stored materials nor carries moisture – and because it can be isolated and purified relatively inexpensively. Because nitrogen has a lower-specific gravity than air, when introduced into the oven it immediately purges air that may contain contaminants or moisture.
In a nitrogen oven, pre-heated nitrogen gas is flushed through the oven in order to purge oxygen from the chamber. This leads to efficient heating of the specimen as vaporized moisture/solvent is continuously withdrawn. After the heating process, the oven atmosphere has an oxygen and moisture content in the lower ppm-range.
By increasing the ability to lower the potential for contamination of samples, nitrogen ovens play and specific and vital role in the laboratory.