Flexible Laboratories How to quickly change between advanced research activities – an example By Tom Helmersen Department of Chemical Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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NTNU • Norwegian University of Science and Technology • 6700 man-years, of which 4053 are in academic or scientific positions • 39 000 students, of which half study technology and the natural sciences • About 380 doctoral degrees awarded annually • More than 120 laboratories, many of which are national resources. Most of the laboratories are used in teaching as well as research Kunnskap for en bedre verden


NTNU – Department of Chemical Engineering (IKP) • At the Department of Chemical Engineering (IKP), we take chemistry from the laboratory scale to industrial production • Molecular processes and nanotechnology, construction and operation of large processing plants • 70 engineers (MSc) is educated every year

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NTNU – Department of Chemical Engineering (IKP)

• 150 employees (30 Professors, 70 PhD’s, 25 Post Docs/Researchers, 25 Technical and Administrative staff • About 15-25 doctoral degrees awarded annually • 2 National Centres for Research-based Innovation • Lab area: ~3700 m2 Kunnskap for en bedre verden


NTNU – Department of Chemical Engineering (IKP) • Activity is very research based. Almost 2/3 of the Departments funding is research funding from external sources • Large laboratory facilities for a wide range of experiments • Laboratories organised as cost centres and managed by each research group • The research laboratories are also used by master students in their specialisation and for their master thesis • In several laboratories we cooperate with other research institutes and departments Kunnskap for en bedre verden


History of flexible laboratories at IKP • 2008 planning of renovation of buildings. An opportunity to think alternative towards the workflow in the laboratories • Thinking of experimental equipment and research rigs as flexible modules • Infrastructure that supports more effective use and with focus on a safe work environment (HSE) • Fixed base-infrastructure • Plug and play

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Lab activities at IKP Large amount of gases needed (N2, O2, CO2, …)

Need for toxic/flammable and corrosive gases (H2, CH4, H2S, CO… Use of volatile chemicals (Acetone, Hexen, Chloride etc. ) High amount of electricity needed to heat up reactors up to 800oC, and to cool down Laboratories shared with external collaborating firms, and suitable for other internal units. All research is project based Kunnskap for en bedre verden

Centralized gas distribution system

Gas alarm system

Good ventilation needed Equipment in ventilated cabinets/ fume hoods, also adapted for corrosive gases

Electricity available at higher voltages Cooling water

Equipment or the cabinets should be movable

A new General infrastructure • • • • • • • • • • •

Ventilation Electricity and network Cooling water (closed loop) Steam (heating and sterilisation) Warm and cold water Distilled water Compressed air Gas distribution and detection Cranes, lifts/forklift Access (size of doors, admissions) Work-alone alarms Kunnskap for en bedre verden


Centralized gas distribution system • 10 different gases connected to the system today, possibility to connect more (23) • 8-11 different gases to each building/lab (air included) • Example – Catalysis lab: Air, N2, O2, He, CO2, C2H6, CH4, H2, Ar and C3H8

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Centralized gas distribution system • Gas batteries of 12 * 50L gas cylinders or single 50L gas cylinders in gas storage

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Centralized gas distribution system • Advantages – Fewer gas cylinders in the lab – less gas – No leakages due to changing of gas cylinder – Gas supply closed if gas alarm activated (flammable gases and O2)

• Disadvantages – Difficult to find leakages – can empty a whole battery – Economical: • How to divide the gas expenses to different projects or departments • Expensive to install and maintain

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Gas alarm system Short description of the satellite system: • Different sensors for different gases: CH4, H2, CO, (H2S, Cl2, HCl, SO2, NH3 and O2 ) • Two alarm levels (eg 20% and 40% LEL ) – Level 1: Blue warning lights – time to fix the leakage – Level 2: Red warning lights, sirens • Sensor in the ceiling: gas supply cut, fire alarm → evacuation of the whole building • Sensor in a rig: Electrical shutdown of the rig

• Service and calibration of the gas alarm system twice a year

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Gas alarm system

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Gas alarm system • Advantages – SAFETY! – Early warning – especially in enclosed cabinets

• Disadvantages/ Challenges – False alarms – Expensive – Knowledge and maintenance

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Ventilated cabinets • Example Catalysis lab: the whole cabinets with equipment inside can be moved

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Ventilated cabinets • CO2 Capture lab: equipment is moved but the cabinets stays

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Electricity and cooling water

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Infrastructure located in ceiling

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Overall experience / lessons learned • Easy to change experiments, plug and play • Activity does not change so often as we expected • Infrastructure must be supported with routines and procedures to be kept operational and exploited properly

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Conclusions • Flexible labs. give lower boundaries for changes in research – lower start-up cost and change-over period • It gives possibilities for more effective research and use of expensive laboratory facilities • Our solution with experiments in closed boxes reduce interruptions in other experiments in the same laboratory • The infrastructure give us possibility for more diverse experiments in the same laboratories • The flexible infrastructure improve the safety in our laboratories • The more extensive infrastructure is more expensive to maintain and administrate • More and advanced infrastructure demands more extensive training of laboratory personnel and researchers/students • Technical follow-up must be closer, to maintain the infra-structure intact. That no projects makes alterations that damage the concept. (a challenge when new users/tendants come in) Kunnskap for en bedre verden


Thank you Tom Helmersen Mail: [email protected] Tel: +47 73550304

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