If you're a loyal reader of this column, you may recall that I once stated that the actual “technological development” going into cleanroom equipment and supplies was proceding at a snail's pace, that you would undoubtedly garner more excitement in watching a painted wall dry than you would keeping a keen eye fixed on cleanroom product launches.
Well, perhaps I was slightly premature in this assessment.
Once a few stones are turned one may find that, while you're practicing your contamination control with firmly-established technologies, there are subtle adjustments happening to these tried-and-true mainstays-adjustments aimed at taking contamination control to the level of “total compliance control.”
This month we highlight a couple technological tweaks (“Determining par ticle composition,” page 24 and “En vironmental monitoring goes real time,” page 1) that take environmental monitoring one step closer to the currently fictional world of total compliance.
Something that jumped out at me last year at CleanRooms Europe was the work being conducted by Dr. Markus Lankers, an ex-Schering development manager who wanted to help optimize the particle counting process. Dr. Lankers thought if he could employ Ramon spectroscopy-a universal analytical technique for identification of molecules in gases, liquids and solids by scattering of laser light-with existing particle counting equipment and tie it all together with a database of materials present in a process, he just may have something useful.
What Lankers ended up with is a product that can not only give you particle counts, but identify the profile of those particles in the sample; which, in turn, will help users double back to find the origin of the intruder. If the read out tells you that one of the particles has the properties of wool, it just might be time to see who's wearing a sweater into your clean facility. Turn to the Particle Counter tech feature for details.
But like most technologies on the brink, it's not as simple as pushing a button-although it may be at some point soon. As Lankers points out in his explanation of the technology, the key to standardizing particle identification is maintaining a database, a relatively “low tech” task but imperative in any comprehensive identification system.
Imagine integrating Lankers system with a wireless network that alerts your pager, PDA or laptop if there is a subtle break down in procedures. You're at lunch and you get a read out on your PDA that not only are particle counts up, but counts of certain materials not germane to the product in production have gone through the roof, say rubber and cotton.
You identify, troubleshoot and you’re back in the trail of compliance. Beam me up Markus.