Autoclaves are widely used in the industrial marketplace in curing processes. Certain chemical and atmospheric conditions need to be maintained—namely oxygen has to be removed. If oxygen is introduced or present during and after the product curing process, it could cause the remaining composites inside the autoclave vessel to combust. The solution is to purge the interior of the autoclaves with nitrogen gas which is completely inert after each curing session is complete.
How Are Autoclaves Used in Various Industries?
Autoclaves are used for a number of different industrial and chemical applications that require the use of high temperatures and pressurization for the purpose of curing various components safely and quickly. Depending on the size of the load and its contents, it can take anywhere between 15 minutes and several hours to complete a curing process.
Autoclaves are used for the following applications:
Vulcanization of rubber. Vulcanization is the process of using certain chemicals such as sulfur to harden rubber. Autoclaves are the perfect vessels to use for this process because they have the ability to regulate high temperatures and pressure conditions. Polymers are substances that are bonded together by similar material compounds. Used for many different industrial applications, polymers start off as liquids that are then hardened to form uniform membranes or protective coatings. Autoclave polymer curing is used to guarantee consistent and high-quality results for polymer products for various industrial purposes. Autoclaves are used in the curing process of artificial crystals for electronics manufacturing because they’re the only system that can create the high temperatures and level of pressurization needed to create high-quality crystal products.
How Do Autoclaves Work in the Curing Process?
Autoclaves use pressurized heat at extremely high temperatures to cure various materials. Several stages are involved in the autoclave curing process.
First, there’s the loading period during which the vessel is filled with the materials that need to be cured.
Next, the heating and pressure system is turned on to heat up the unit and pressurize the autoclave with a nitrogen atmosphere to the desired pressure.
During this process, the temperature increasingly rises until it reaches the desired level. The temperature then stabilizes for a specified duration of time. Once the time is up, the vessel begins the cooldown phase, after which the chamber’s nitrogen atmosphere is depressurized, and the items can safely be removed.
Why Is Nitrogen Ideal for Autoclave Curing?
Nitrogen is an inert gas. It’s used to stabilize the internal components of the autoclave before and after each curing session. This is crucial because autoclave chambers are frequently composed to a wide range of chemicals and composite materials that can become highly combustible or hazardous if they come into contact with certain substances, especially oxygen.
Nitrogen is used to purge autoclave chambers in preparation for material curing and then a nitrogen atmosphere is maintained in the autoclave throughout the curing process.
How Are Nitrogen Generators Used for Purging Autoclaves?
Depending on nitrogen purity requirements both membrane type and PSA type nitrogen generators can play an important role in the autoclave curing process. Installing onsite nitrogen generators for purging autoclaves is a more practical and economic choice for nitrogen supply. The alternative is to have pressurized nitrogen tanks delivered to your facility on a regular basis however, deliveries can be unreliable and cost-prohibitive. Any time there’s a delay or a tank has to be changed out, it costs your facility money.
Producing nitrogen onsite guarantees consistency, safety, and cost savings. It also lowers the environmental impact of your operations by not having to transport nitrogen tanks. Onsite nitrogen generators produce a continuous supply of nitrogen, so there’s never any risk of running out of inert gas at inopportune moments. That means no downtime for your facility (at least not due to a lack of nitrogen) and, more importantly, it significantly minimizes the risk of oxygen-related autoclave combustion.
To add to the cost savings, nitrogen generators can last up to a decade or longer even with continuous use as long as they’re properly maintained.
Installation of nitrogen gas generator for industrial plants