When substances or products have to be handled away from ambient air and contamination, laboratory glove boxes quickly become indispensable. These airtight enclosures create a confined or special atmosphere to protect products and guarantee the safety of users.
Main Uses of Glove Boxes
Laboratory glove boxes are hermetically sealed enclosures with varying sizes where hazardous materials can be handled. The sides are transparent and put gloves for hands that reach up to the shoulders so operators can perform their tasks safely. They typically include gas purification systems, transfer systems and regulators. They are also equipped with automatic safety devices to prevent the risk of contamination of the operator and the environment.
This equipment is mainly used with water or air-sensitive materials, volatile, toxic or radioactive substances. Gloves attached to the side simplify access to the interior and the different manual operations. The transparency of the glove box walls gives the operator a good handling visibility.
There are various applications of laboratory glove boxes, particularly in the fields of medical and pharmaceutical research, industry, energy, nuclear power, etc…
Two Types of Laboratory Glove Boxes
There are two main types of laboratory glove boxes for different applications.
Glove Box for the Containment of Dangerous Substances
This type of laboratory glove box is suitable for handling radioactive materials or pathogens. The gloves are covered with the appropriate protection, which greatly reduces the risks for the operator. Similarly, their sides are designed with materials that minimize any external contamination.
In the nuclear field, for example, gloves are protected with lead. Plexiglass windows, as well as plastic and wood fibre-based shielding can prevent the infiltration of neutron radiation.
In biological applications, the pressure in a laboratory glove box is below atmospheric pressure. In this way, pathogens cannot contaminate the environment.
Glove Box for Inert Atmosphere Containment
This is used to create an extremely pure inert atmosphere that is necessary for handling substances such as argon, nitrogen, etc. The integrated devices remove oxygen, water and solvents from the enclosure, resulting in a highly pure internal atmosphere. The internal pressure of this type of glove box also exceeds atmospheric pressure, so contaminants cannot escape into the environment. Training in the use of a laboratory glove box is required. Moreover, there is also the need to put on personal protection and have emergency equipment available. Many accessories may also be necessary to make the glove box easier to use.