Specialty Gas and Its Applications
Specialty gases are high-quality gases used in many industrial applications such as life science & healthcare, manufacturing & processing, analytical instrumentation, and environmental applications.
Traditionally, gases are categorized as fuel, atmospheric, refrigerant, or poisonous. Specialty gas, however, is defined by its degree of purity and homogeneity. The preparation of these gases involves analysis and quantifiable methods. It needs to achieve a certain level of purity required for a specific industrial application.
Applications of Specialty Gases
Almost every industry sector uses specialty gases in one form or another. While its applications seem limitless, you can categorize it in four general areas:
- Analytical Instrumentation. This process requires accurate and repeatable results, so it relies on specialty gases for high-precision gas mixtures. It is primarily applied to process control and environmental & safety monitoring. It is used as fuels, oxidizers, carrier gases, and calibration gases.
- Specialty gases enable precise monitoring and control in environmental applications. For instance, it monitors air quality, controlling continuous emissions, fire suppressions, gas detection, and approvals in vehicle emissions. High purity gases are used in analyzing soil & groundwater samples for environmental impact. For people working in mines and other confined spaces, gas detection is necessary, as well as a breathing apparatus.
- Life Sciences & Healthcare. A range of applications in the science and healthcare industry involves analytical capacities. The field uses specialty gas on lung function testing and laser vision correction. Surgical operations like cryosurgery use high-precision argon gas, while high purity sulfur hexafluoride helps repair a damaged retina. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners need liquid helium, while medical equipment uses ethylene oxide gas for sterilization. Microbiology and biotechnology also regularly use high-purity gases.
- Manufacturing and Process. The manufacturing industry requires specialty gases throughout its process to ensure satisfactory results. In food manufacturing, it is used in hydroponics and modern farming methods in Australia. Elevated carbon dioxide levels promote crop growth, while specialty gas mixtures of ethylene in nitrogen promote fruit ripening. The semiconductor industry uses high purity chemical mixtures as dopants or for etching. Other applications include biogas production, glazing insulation, natural gas distribution, and chemical process control.
Purity in Compressed Air
Specialty gas is compressed into a cylinder by an air compressor. This compressed air is used as a pressuring agent in many industrial applications. It usually comprises oxygen and nitrogen in varying ratios and has a broad range of applications depending on grade. Each grade is tested for impurities like moisture levels, oxygen levels, total hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, etc.
Compressed air is classified into industrial grade, instrument grade, and zero grade. The most common is the Industrial grade which is used to drive air tools. If there is no electrical power available, you can run an air compressor with industrial compressed air.
Instrument Grade, or instrument air, is compressed air that has low hydrocarbon and moisture levels. It is a clean source of oxygen for various oxidation processes. It can also be used as an oxidizer in flame ionization detectors. In calibration gas mixtures, instrument gas is used as the balance gas. Zero grade, or zero air, is a mixture of pure oxygen and pure nitrogen. It is used when running and calibrating test instruments where impurities are strictly unwanted.
Compressed air is usually odorless, colorless, and non-flammable. It is a medium for special gas to reach its various applications. Pressure regulators are used in withdrawing gas from the cylinder.
Specialty Gas and Its Applications