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Woman uses a VacuuPure system
Woman uses a Vacuupure system

The Lab Manager's Quest for Sustainable Science

Embracing sustainability with vacuum pump solutions

by BrandTech Scientific
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Every day, as Aleah entered her lab, she felt a cloud of worry form. With her new role as the quality control lab manager, their environmental footprint was in her hands. After attending a conference on sustainability, ‘greening’ the lab has become her passion project. She had learned a lot about the “heavy hitters”—the ultralow temperature freezers, fume hoods, and plastics—and used this to overhaul lab practices and supplies. While this had already made a significant impact, she knew she could do more.

As Aleah walked through the lab one afternoon, she spotted Malik, her lead technician, changing the oil on the vacuum pumps. While looking at the hazardous waste containers, a question dawned. How sustainable can these vacuum pumps be if we constantly dispose of oil? She hoped for the best as they ran several pumps that were all vital to their operations.

Luckily, she knew just the person to ask—Jasmine, the lab waste management officer, had a similar interest in sustainability. As usual, Jasmine laid everything out clearly for Aleah. “Rotary vane pumps require oil for sealing and lubrication, and there’s no reliable way to circumvent oil changes,” said Jasmine. “You’d need to look at oil-free pumps for that. The labs that still use water jet aspirators significantly increase our environmental footprint—each one can waste around 40,000 gallons of water per year per sink. This water becomes contaminated and goes down the drain.”

Aleah winced. She’d already removed her lab’s aspirator and assumed others had too. That was now most—but not all—of their vacuum sources. “What about our house vacuum?”

Jasmine shrugged. “Our central vacuum runs non-stop even when used for only 10 percent of that time, meaning it wastes 90 percent of its operational energy.”

After her conversation with Jasmine, Aleah dove into her research, determined to find a better way. First up, she wanted to eliminate the oil and water waste. Screw pumps are an excellent low-maintenance and oil-free alternative to their high-maintenance rotary vane pumps. Deep vacuum is generated using two contact-free spindles for gas transport in gap-sealed chambers. Diaphragm pumps offer another great oil-free solution for providing vacuum in the rough vacuum range. They have inlet and discharge valves that work together with a flexible diaphragm to create a vacuum. She then found a solution she hadn’t thought to look for—pumps with an exhaust vapor condenser, which can condense and collect waste vapors at the pump’s outlet. This boosts solvent recovery efforts, allowing easy recycling for reuse rather than disposal.

While reading up on ways to reduce their energy usage, Aleah was thrilled to learn about demand-responsive pumps and local vacuum networks. Demand-responsive pumps with a speed-controlled motor decrease energy usage at a single workstation by up to 90 percent compared to a vacuum pump with constant motor speed. Local vacuum networks are excellent alternatives to central vacuum networks since they reduce energy consumption by 70-90 percent. These networks are adaptable and can support multiple users from a single pump.

Aleah also knows from experience that quality brings about sustainability, as cheaper solutions come at a cost. High-quality pumps don’t require frequent repairs or replacements. This minimizes resource consumption and reduces landfill waste.

Her head was buzzing with this newfound insight. Aleah excitedly got to work planning a complete transition for the building’s vacuum supply. Their oil-sealed vacuum pumps and water jet aspirators could be replaced with oil-free screw and diaphragm pumps, depending on vacuum requirements. She also proposed implementing local vacuum networks, providing long-term cost savings due to decreased maintenance and energy consumption. She even found a single-source company committed to green vacuum technology to work with through the transition. The cloud of worry dissipated as Aleah envisioned a greener future.

BRANDTECH sustainability solutions

For laboratories like Aleah’s, BRANDTECH provides vacuum pump solutions focused on sustainability. The VACUU-PURE® oil-free screw pump eliminates the need for oil disposal or changes, saving time and money. Their VACUUBRAND VARIO®-control diaphragm pumps combine variable motor speed with the VACUU-SELECT® controller for enhanced energy efficiency. Exhaust vapor condensers that efficiently recover solvents to reduce emissions are available for both VARIO®-control and VACUU-PURE® pumps. Additionally, all BRANDTECH pumps undergo extensive testing to ensure longevity. VACUU-LAN® local vacuum networks support multiple users, resulting in energy savings and reduced maintenance compared to central vacuum systems that run 24/7.

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Credit: BrandTech Scientific
Top Image:
Credit: BrandTech Scientific