Placing gas under the microscope

Gases are used in a wide array of commercial operations, for a plethora of uses ranging from energy, food and healthcare. Depending on the application, the purity of the gas used can be extremely important and present a significant risk if it is not addressed. Similarly, verifying the identity of gases is paramount to mitigate any catastrophe’s that may stem from misrepresentation. Gas testing is crucial for minimizing risks, and mitigating hazards.

An offshoot to municipal wastewater treatment is biogas production, which is performed by microorganisms which break down biodegradable material. Through a process known as anaerobic digestion (in the absence of oxygen), they produce methane and carbon dioxide which can be used to generate electricity and heat. The biogas contains numerous chemical substances, one of them include siloxanes.

Siloxane is a function in organosilicon chemistry

Siloxanes are a subgroup of silicones containing Si-O bonds with organic radicals. These oxides can precipitate as solids in machinery used in cogeneration (the production of electricity). Some of the siloxanes found in biogas generation are hexamethylcyclotrisiloxane (D3), octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4), decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5) dodecamethylcyclohexasiloxane (D6), silanol (L1), hexamethyldisiloxane (L2), octamethyltrisiloxane (L3) and decamethyltetrasiloxane. Therefore, they are a significant contaminant in biogas production.  Biogas must be analysed for the presence of these siloxanes and removed if they are present.

Verification of gas identity is another important are in gas analysis. An example is medical air, which is made up of 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen – containing traces of water vapor, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, argon and other various components. It is usually a part of the medical gas supply system in hospitals which includes an array of gases such as nitrous oxide, nitrogen (pure), oxygen (pure), nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and waste anaesthetic gas disposal (US). Any mix-up of the supply lines can be extremely detrimental, and lead to highly consequential catastrophes. It is important for quality assurance that the identity of these gases is confirmed with gas analysis in a laboratory, on a semi regular basis, to decrease the chances of mishaps or tragedies.

Medical air can serve vital functions in the hospital

Carbon dioxide is used commercially for a variety of applications, particularly in the food and beverage industries. It is used in carbonated drinks, decaffeinating coffee, to freeze food products and maintain ideal atmospheric conditions.  Depending on the method of carbon dioxide production, contaminants can arrive from multiple avenues – particularly if the purification hasn’t been conducted conclusively. Common contaminants include hydrogen sulphide and benzene, and the presence above regulatory levels has led to product recalls. Having regular quality control checks of commercial gases can be an effective risk management mechanism to decrease any calamities.

It is impossible to judge gases alone purely on their physical characteristics, or to know if there are any significant contaminations present. Having access to analytical expertise, techniques and instrumentation is expensive to hold in-house – and is more economically feasible when outsourced. ACS provides a comprehensive gas testing service, consistent with the recommended guidelines set for gas quality.

One Response
  1. andrew Reply

    Very nice!

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