Laminar flow cabinets

What is a laminar flow cabinet?

A laminar flow cabinet (also called laminar flow hood or clean bench) is a workstation that provides a flow of filtered air to protect the product/experiment. The air leaves the cabinet trough the work opening without any further filtration step. This means that this cabinet type is not suitable to work with biohazards. There are 2 types of laminar flow cabinets: horizontal (crossflow) and vertical (downflow).

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The difference is in the direction of the clean air. A horizontal laminar flow has the HEPA filter on the backwall and blows the filtered air horizontally towards the user. A vertical laminar flow has the HEPA filter in the ceiling and blows the filtered air vertically towards the work surface. Both have different advantages.

With a horizontal laminar flow, potential contaminants on your sleeves and gloves are blown horizontally outside the cabinet, not towards your experiment (often positioned on the work surface). A second advantage is that you can do manipulations very close to the HEPA filter at the back wall of the cabinet, where the air is the cleanest. This is not possible with a vertical laminar flow, where the filter is placed in the ceiling. Finally: the work opening. Horizontal cabinets have no sash window. This means that your work opening is the same as the internal height of your cabinet. For experiments where you need to be able to reach high, this is a large advantage.

The main advantage of a vertical laminar flow cabinet, or vertical clean bench, is mainly when you are working with large objects like PCR cabinets and microscopes. When you place these in a horizontal laminar flow, there’s a big risk of turbulence at the user side. Turbulence can suck in air contaminants from the environment into the workstation. When using a vertical laminar flow, you don’t have this effect. The second advantage is the comfort of the user. With a horizontal laminar flow, the air is blown in the face of the operator. When working full-time at the workstation, this can be experienced as discomforting. With vertical laminar flows, you don’t have this effect.

What is the difference between a vertical laminar flow cabinet and a biosafety cabinet class II A2?

A biosafety cabinet class II and a vertical laminar flow cabinet both offer protection of your product/experiment against contaminants in the air. A biosafety cabinet will also provide protection of the user against biohazards, while a vertical laminar flow cabinet does not offer user protection.

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