What are laboratory test chambers and stability chambers used for?
Laboratory test chambers replicate a mini environment to test the effects of stresses such as extreme temperature, humidity, light, corrosion, and vibration on a sample or product. The information gained permits the identification and correction of any potential problems, ensuring that the product will perform as intended under harsh conditions. This is crucial information, making these units valuable tools in the environmental, pharmaceutical, food science, and electronics industries, among others.
Test methods range from simple temperature testing to thermal shock testing, which subjects the product to rapidly changing temperatures up to ±70 °C/min, environmental stress screening (ESS), altitude testing, photostability testing, and AGREE (Advisory Group on Reliability of Electronic Equipment) testing, in which a series of temperature, humidity, and vibration tests are performed.
Return on investment and convenience are the main factors that come into play when deciding to bring test chamber equipment in house instead of relying on outside testing facilities, benefits that, surprisingly, extend to smaller companies as well as larger ones.
How do I choose a laboratory test chamber/stability chamber?
The many types and sizes of test chambers/stability chambers available underlies the importance of doing your research before you buy. Take the time to define the necessary features for your test procedure or storage needs:
For high-temperature applications, chambers can reach well over 200 °C depending on their material of construction.
Refrigeration options include CO2, with the ability to almost instantly lower a chamber’s temp down to –73 °C, and LN2, to bring it down to –185 °C. Mechanical refrigeration can be achieved via a single-stage compressor or two-stage cascade type. Air-cooling condensers are economical, but may heat up the room, and require more space. Water-cooling condensers do not give off heat, but require a water supply.
Keep the unit’s pull-down and ramp-up time in mind, since many variables affect those numbers, including size, temperature range, and power of the heating or refrigeration system.
Although the most common relative humidity range is 20–98% RH, options such as dry air purge systems can lower this further.
Look for features such as microprocessor-based controllers; autotune; LED, LCD, or touch LCD temp and RH displays; and solid-state RH sensors.
Benchtop, reach-in, and walk-in models are available. Seam welding of the internal chamber walls as well as a properly fitted door gasket reduce the chance of leaks.
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