With advancements in technology, the need for precisely formulated specialty gases has never been more crucial. Specifications for the creation of each specialty gas reach the accuracy of parts per billion (ppb). These standards have to be carefully upheld by gas supply companies since the processes involving these mixtures might be volatile or sensitive.
Specialty gases have an impressive range of complexity. Mixtures can contain two or thirty different components, and this sets them apart from typical industrial gases.
Many supply companies formulate mixtures only after understanding the process thoroughly. They prepare the mixtures specifically for a particular application to maximise efficacy and to prevent any accidents. These applications can range from daily operations to crucial lab equipment calibration.
Air Quality Monitoring
Monitoring pollutants has become necessary with the health implications they tend to carry. At a given time in New South Wales, at least 85 ambient air quality monitoring stations are active. Most detect particulates of pollutant gases such as NO, SO, and CO in the air by utilising gas analysers. Nitrogen 5.0 and Zero Air are used specifically for outdoor monitoring.
Gas mixtures containing Nitrogen, Argon, and CO help suppress fires in gas processing rigs, buildings, and ships.
Inert gases used in these mixtures for fire extinguishers do not decompose in fires, and there are no toxic compounds formed, making the specialty gas best suited for this application.
Growth of Biological Cultures
Bacterial cultures thrive only in a specific environment, and the maintenance of this environment is a daunting task. However, culture growth specialty gas mixtures promote the growth of specific bacteria that make isolation of microbes easier.
These incubator gas mixes can control the aerobic or anaerobic nature of the media as well!
Sterilisation of Medical Equipment
Hospitals typically use ethylene oxide to sterilise medical instruments and equipment since all of them (especially those made with plastic) cannot be autoclaved.
EtO is most commonly commercialised at 9% strength for this purpose.
Inert or semi-inert gases are used to protect the weld area from atmospheric gases that affect the weld’s quality. The gas can be a pure gas or a blend of gases such as Helium, NO, Carbon Dioxide, and Sulphur Hexafluoride.
The most common blend used is 75% Argon and 25% CO2
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) of food maintains the flavour, appearance, and texture of processed foods. Each gas is formulated specifically for a particular food. For example, a blend of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide is typically used for fish.
Many gas supply companies have food-grade gases kept aside for these specific purposes.
Methane production using biogas and sludge digesters serves as the methane source for the natural gas distribution grid. Gases are used to promote the treatment of wastes (wastewater).
A few companies can supply biomethane to treatment plants, which is more CO2 rich and methane-lean than typical methane.
Ethylene is a naturally occurring chemical that fastens the process of ripening, and a gas mixture of 4% ethylene is typically used for the same.
The use of pure ethylene is considered unsafe in many countries. Since fruits also emit ethylene upon ripening, it is a chain reaction, and such high concentrations of ethylene are unnecessary.
Hydroponics and Crop Growth
The growth rate in such crop-growing methods (greenhouse) can be controlled by altering the CO2 concentration at levels close to 800 ppm (almost twice the amount in the atmosphere). The most suitable concentration may differ with farming, so consultations before specialty gas formulations are important.
The range of their applications keeps growing, and gas supply companies have to be ready for constant evolution. Many take up customised orders as well as have a store of standard specialty gases.