Clean air experts Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions discuss what features are important when investing in an active air sampler
An active air sampler is one of the tools you can use in your cleanroom to monitor contamination, but, specifically, it is the tool you can use to monitor viable contamination. These are live microbes, so they have the potential to grow, like mould or fungi. While a particle counter can tell if contamination is present, only an active air sampler can tell you what kind of contamination you are dealing with.
As clean air experts, we know this is an important investment in your cleanroom, so we have a few features we always recommend looking for in an active air sampler.
First and foremost, any piece of equipment used in a cleanroom needs to be made of materials suitable for a sterile environment. It needs to be free of particle traps and easily sanitised or wiped down. These are cleanroom basics, but important to keep in mind.
It shouldn’t surprise you when we say that there are a lot of regulations surrounding cleanrooms. Depending on the cleanroom’s application, any number of ISO, EU, or FDA guidelines might apply to how contamination is monitored, tracked, and mitigated. You will need to supply data trails for audits to prove you were compliant. For example, ISO 14698 (specifically ISO 14698-1) is the standard for choosing and operating an active air sampler.
When choosing an active air sampler, you should only consider options where compliance is built in. Not only does that show an aptitude for compliance from the vendor, but makes your life substantially easier.
Although this is a standard according to ISO 14698-1, a HEPA filtered exhaust is often overlooked by many air sampler manufacturers. The inclusion (or exclusion) of one again shows the aptitude and reliability of the vendor. Excluding one poses a potential threat to your cleanroom.
A critical component of an active air sampler is the petri dish and it's holder. This is where the machine determines if the contamination is viable or not, so it is a high concentration point of particles. It is important to be able to remove it for cleaning and replacements.
When you are spending time, money, and effort to expand your cleanroom’s tools, you should consider the versatility of the equipment you invest in. Even if you don’t have a need to use compressed gas right now, there is the possibility you might introduce compressed gas to your process in the future. Thus, you should look for versatility and options in your active air sampler, including the option to attach gas sampling tools.
Autoclaves are important cleaning and sanitisation tools, but not all components of air samplers or particle counters are suitable for them. If you use autoclaves, you should ensure the components are removable and autoclavable to streamline your cleaning process. If you have to use separate processes to clean components, you’ll add unnecessary steps to your cleanroom care and, ultimately, have difficulty completely optimising your cleanroom.
What good is an active air sampler if you can’t use the data you are collecting? Sometimes we get so caught up in the specs and details of the equipment we are looking at that we forget to consider the basics: how does the information transfer work? Can the air sampler adapt to your systems for seamless implementation? Cleanrooms are expensive to run, so they need to be utilised and optimised to their fullest potential. So don’t forget the little things: how does the cleanroom transfer, store, and communicate data?
The d50 is the point where 50% the particles of a specific size will be pulled away and 50% will impact on the media. To meet ISO 14698, if 50% of 100 µm particles impact and 50% are pulled away to exit through the pump system, then the resolution of the air sampler is based on the d50.
If your active air sampler d50 is 10µm, you will miss the main particles that are most concentrated in your cleanroom. This is a vital parameter. Without proper validation of the active air sampler, the end user may not even know that the air sampling device they are using is not physically capable of capturing contamination below 10µm. They may have a false sense of control as CFU results would be low as most biological contamination in the cleanroom is much smaller than 10µm.
At the end of the day, an active air sampler should be a versatile, powerful tool suitable for a sterile environment. Here at Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions, we believe that the air sampler should do the heavy lifting so you don’t have to. We believe you should be able to feel secure and confident in your equipment without the stress.
That is why we designed the ActiveCount100H.
With a cleanroom suitable design, innovative attachments and elements, and comprehensive programmable settings, the ActiveCount100H is a powerful addition to cleanrooms that need to monitor viable particles.