“Environmental test chamber” is a term that can be broadly applied to several pieces of equipment. On its face, it can seem difficult to understand what exactly an environmental chamber is. In this article, we will outline what environmental test chambers are, some different types of chambers and their applications, and how you can decide which test chamber is best for you.
What is an Environmental Testing Chamber?
Environmental test chambers, also known as “climatic test chambers” or “testing chambers”, are a type of laboratory equipment that is used to simulate different environmental conditions in a controlled space.
Some common elements and conditions that may be controlled in an environmental testing chamber include:
- Light dosage (photostability)
- Cryogenic conditions (ultra-low temperatures)
The benefit to using environmental control chambers is so that scientists or manufacturers may get an accurate idea of how their product reacts under a variety of conditions. The data collected using these chambers may be used to make determinations such as a product’s shelf life, upper or lower performance limitations, and any other factors that may impact the safety and efficacy of a product before it is released to the public. It is vital for manufacturers to conduct product testing if they want to avoid the costly and potentially harmful and reputation-damaging effects of a defective product.
How Does an Environmental Test Chamber Work?
An environmental test chamber operates by simulating a wide range of conditions, including temperature, humidity, pressure, and sometimes even lighting, to mimic real-world scenarios. These chambers are equipped with advanced sensors and instruments that monitor and regulate the environmental variables, ensuring precise and consistent conditions throughout the testing process. By subjecting items or products to extreme or varied conditions within the controlled environment, researchers, engineers, and manufacturers can assess how these items will react, age, or function over time. Environmental test chambers play a pivotal role in industries such as electronics, textile, aerospace, and pharmaceuticals, enabling researchers to optimize designs, enhance product quality, and ensure safety in a controlled and repeatable manner.
Chamber Testing Applications
Applications for environmental test chambers are varied and oftentimes specific to the type of testing that is required for a particular product, and different chambers may be better suited for some types of testing than others. For example, if you know you’ll be needing to conduct testing at both very high and very low temperatures (commonly referred to as HALT or Highly Accelerated Life Testing), you will want to look for a temperature test chamber with a wide operating range so that you can hit both ends of the temperature spectrum. Or if you are a pharmaceutical company developing a new drug and need to test the effects of varying degrees of light exposure on your product, you will want to look for an environmental chamber with light dose control.
Components of Environmental Testing Chambers
While there is some degree of variability in the design of environmental test chambers due to their application-specific purpose, there are some common elements that can be found across most environmental testing chambers.
Environmental chambers come in a range of sizes, and are commonly a “reach-in” style of unit, though it is possible to construct them larger. This means that the chamber will sit in a laboratory or test area where an attendant may walk over and reach into the unit to place samples, monitor their condition and make adjustments, or remove them from the chamber. The exterior of environmental test chambers are typically constructed of high quality, durable stainless steel that may be powder-coated to prevent corrosion and rust. There is also a great deal of attention paid to the insulation of the unit and door to ensure an air-tight seal so the desired conditions within the chamber can be achieved.
Inside of an environmental test chamber are typically shelves where samples are placed. Internally there may be a number of different components such as heaters, refrigeration systems, dryers, condensers, and more to simulate various environmental conditions. The entire chamber is controlled via a computer interface controller so that the user can collect data readouts, adjust settings, or set timed programs. It is also critical that the data from the machine is easily transferred via USB or other output so it may be accessed on an outside computer.
Choosing the Best Test Chamber for Your Application
As detailed above, environmental test chambers are not a one-size-fits-all piece of equipment. Each test chamber will have its strengths for certain conditions or types of testing but may not perform quite as well in other areas. So when choosing a climatic test chamber it is important to have a firm understanding of the conditions you need to achieve, as well as any other specific testing requirements.
Size and location for the chamber are also important considerations when deciding on an environmental test chamber. You will want to make sure it provides an adequate amount of storage space for your samples and also fits in the laboratory space where it will be set up. Depending on the amount of product you need to store or if you have sizable equipment you will need to keep in the controlled space, it may make more sense to construct a temperature and humidity controlled walk-in room. It is also critical to assess the power and water requirements of the test chamber versus what is available at your facility.
Lastly, you will want to make sure there is good support for servicing, annual calibrations, and preventative maintenance.
PGC’s Environmental Control Chambers
Parameter offers a wide variety of environmental test chambers to satisfy your testing needs, including temperature and humidity controlled chambers, chambers with wide-range performance capabilities, photostability chambers, ultra low freezer chambers, and more.
Environmental test chambers are a versatile and powerful tool to have in your laboratory. They allow scientists and manufacturers to safely and reliably conduct product testing. To discuss what environmental testing chamber might best suit your application, submit an online quote request and we will take it from there.