Some of the largest industries in the world are to be found in the field of research and development. Industries and sectors such as medicine, fuels and plastics all invest heavily each year in researching new products and processes and their budgets reflect the fact. A lot of what they do relies on precise measurements and technical details and as a result they require the best equipment that is on the market.
The laboratory furnace industry caters for this need in all of the areas I’ve mentioned and more. Where the smallest detail or measurement can be the difference between success and failure there is obviously a great need for the best equipment, and the safest. All laboratory equipment supplied to and used by these companies needs to be both technically sound and also very safe.
Laboratory furnaces play a major part in the research that companies are involved in; it’s the results and finding that are achieved using the equipment that determines a company’s strategic plan and can have a large impact on the worth and standing of that company. Laboratory furnaces are used in almost every major industry in the world including electronics, aircraft production and the car industry. Although they can be found almost everywhere there are also different types that can achieve different things and are aimed at specific sectors.
One of the most widely used and renowned laboratory furnaces used by industry today is the tube furnace. This type of device is used to carry out several processes including conducting synthesis or purification of inorganic material. This type of compound is not exclusive however and the device can also be used for organic synthesis. The tube furnace is quite rigid in its design and has to conform to certain principles to be effective. It’s made up of heating coils that surround a cylindrical cavity and then sit in a thermally insulating matrix.
The cylindrical cavity measure between 40 and 60cm and has a diameter of about 8cm. Information from the cavity is sent via a thermocouple; this information concerns the temperature in the furnace and alterations can be made according to this information. Whoever is operating the laboratory furnace has control over the rate of heating and cooling.
Most tube furnaces have just one heating zone but there are more complicated and sophisticated furnaces that have two heating zones. With two zones the furnace can be utilized for more experiments and processes. They can be used in transport experiments or the crystallization and purification of non-volatile materials.
Probably the most recognizable design of laboratory furnace is the chamber furnace. It most resembles what could be described as an oven. It has a large space or chamber where material or compounds can be placed in the same way we use an oven, although the temperatures that are involved with a chamber furnace are obviously way beyond those achievable by any conventional or domestic oven.
Because of the high temperatures involved the chamber furnace is lined with stainless steel. This ensures that anything placed in the chamber is not damaged and doesn’t damage the equipment either. Like a conventional oven this type of laboratory furnace also uses a fan to distribute heat and create a uniform environment. Without this uniformity any experiments and subsequent results would be open to question and would be harder to reproduce.
The heat in a chamber furnace comes from a mineral insulated sheathed element. The element must be completely independent of the stainless steel lining that is in the chamber to be completely effective. The predictable nature of this type of laboratory furnace makes it particularly useful in tempering, annealing and stress relieving.