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Thermal management: a hot topic for life-science OEMs

Design engineers at OEMs serving the life-science sector are starting to acknowledge the significance of thermal management in the drive to create quicker and more precise laboratory equipment. After all, let’s not forget that chemical reaction rates are generally proportional to temperature, while lab technicians can also increase the working time or shelf life of samples and reagents by maintaining the substance within its optimal temperature range. Of course, delivering this capability in a reliable and cost-effective way is the real challenge, which is why companies are increasingly calling upon our expert team of engineers here at SMC.

  By Max Lemacon, Team Manager Life Science, SMC France


MARCH 2022
We have over 40 years of professional expertise in the provision of thermoelectric devices to OEMs supplying the life science and medical device industries. Our customers tell us that their purchase decisions hinge on high product reliability, breadth of portfolio, potential to customise, and comprehensive pre and aftersales support.

Designers of devices such as analysers often have a background in biology or bio-medical engineering, not thermal management. If this is you and you want to implement temperature control into your equipment designs, the first thing you’ll need is expert design support. Secondly, it would clearly be ideal to source a technology partner that also has expertise in complementary areas, such as fluidic control and automation, as this would simplify business functions like design, purchasing and aftersales. You’ll additionally require post-sales service support during years of equipment use at locations around the world.

Spectrometer challenge
We recently provided a European OEM specialising in in-vitro diagnostics equipment with a temperature control solution for a gaseous chromatography spectrometer. The system separates the chemical components of a sample mixture and detects them to determine their presence or absence and/or how much is present.

Our customer was already working with us on fluidic control solutions, but was not aware of our temperature control portfolio or our thermal management skills. It soon became clear that we could play a key role in defining the most suitable products for the application.

There are four main components to most spectrometers: inlet system, ion source, mass analyser and detector. At the inlet stage, the customer needed to heat a six-capillary network chamber to 55°C. Here, temperature control had to be accurate, precise and repeatable.

The device heats and transforms different liquids into the gaseous phase for condensing at distance, followed by separation and analysis. Temperature stability is critical to provide the accuracy necessary for analyser users. Any home-made solution using Peltier elements would simply not provide sufficient accuracy, and there are other problems too. Peltier-based cooling

systems have to be well-balanced in engineering terms. An insufficient heat sink or undersized Peltier cell could lead to high energy consumption, high heat rejection and excessive noise.

Requirements and solution: the perfect match
We proposed a thermal and fluidic study to determine the optimal levels of thermal balance, heating capacity and air flow. From the results, we were able to identify a solution centring on a compact, high-performance SMC thermoelectric chiller with an air-to-water heat exchanger. Based on careful calculations we also provided a conic diffusor offering optimal air turbine flow.

The upshot was a highly successful solution delivering accuracy, repeatability, compact dimensions and temperature ramp-up programming.

Key of the success of this project was our ability to benefit the customer with our thermal management know-how and provide a complete solution. The customer now sees SMC as far more than a component provider, but as a trusted expert in temperature and fluid control.

Benefits of the Peltier effect
Life science and medical device applications gain enormously from chiller systems based on the Peltier effect due to their high temperature stability, low noise, low vibration and compact physical dimensions.

SMC´s latest Peltier Chiller – Great features in very compact dimensions

To provide a definition, the Peltier effect is the cooling of one junction and the heating of the other when electric current (DC) is maintained in a circuit of material comprising alternate layers of dissimilar semiconductors. These semiconductors are sandwiched between ceramic layers that act as thermal insulators, thus creating a Peltier cell (also known as a thermoelectric device).

Beyond analysers, core applications for thermoelectric devices include echography devices, X-ray systems, cryotherapy equipment and ion accelerators for cancer treatment. Wider applications include water and gas treatment systems to clean laboratory or surgical tools, for example.

In all cases, SMC can design and produce Peltier-type products to suit individual applications. With over four decades of proven experience, the company is an established technology partner for life science and medical device OEMs around the globe.

Max Lemacon | Team Manager Life Science, SMC France

A graduate in mechanics and production, Max joined SMC in 2002 in Normandy. After being a sector manager, he joined key accounts in 2017 as head of the Life Science market. Discovering this market, medical customers, new medical start-ups and their needs for innovative solutions are the heart of his daily motivation. 
Appart from Life Science, his other passions are family, horse riding, trail running and sharing moments with friends!

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