Back to the Basics: Effects of Varying Rates of Evaporation on Calibration Accuracy

For multi-solvent, multi-zone drying processes, it is not always proper to assume uniform evaporation of solvents in each zone.

For an analyzer with wide variation in response factors to the solvents of interest, there could be a considerable error from the assumption that the solvent mixture is uniform in each zone of the dryer. Potentially, the relatively volatile solvents could exist in greater proportion in the first zone(s) of the dryer, and the less volatile solvents could exist in greater proportion in the later zone(s) of the dryer. 

Back to the Basics: Calibration Data

In verifying the analyzer's range of response to different solvents, it’s best to obtain calibration data based on the response to solvent concentrations expressed in terms of LFL. 

Do NOT use the following:

  1. Response factors based upon weight-percentages (such as milligram carbon per normal cubic meter), these may be deceptively close in response until they are translated into terms of %LFL
  2. Calibrations which are based upon calculations and have not been empirically tested and proven using actual solvent mixtures

Back to the Basics: Responses to Various Solvents

An analyzer should respond uniformly to all solvents that might be used. Any differences between individual solvent response factors should not reduce the margin of safety. Typically, this means that the calibration is based upon that solvent producing the lowest response, so the analyzer indicates the true concentration of this one solvent and it indicates readings higher than actual concentration for all others in use.

Back to the Basics: Industry-Standard Accuracy

Several analyzer types are of sufficiently sound design and manufacture to meet the industry-standard requirements for general purpose gas detection. Many of these also maintain this accuracy under normal conditions for a reasonable period of time following calibration.

It is much less common, however, for the accuracy to be maintained for the following, that are routinely found in industrial processes:

Back to the Basics: Safety and Economy

In monitoring the solvent concentration in industrial processes, the accuracy of the analyzer directly affects the safety and economy of the process.

There are two types of errors to look out for:

Back to the Basics: Flash Point, Dew Point & Temperature

The ability of the analyzer to measure the solvent concentration depends on the delivery of the solvent vapor to the analyzer through a sampling system in which all elements in contact with sample are above the dew points and flash points of all substances in the process. 

Back to the Basics: Flash Point and Dew Point

Each solvent has a characteristic “flash point.” This is the minimum temperature at which the solvent can produce sufficient vapors to form a flammable concentration in air at its surface. The flash point is determined by several test methods, giving some small variation in the published values.

Back to the Basics: Sample line leaks

Any tendency for leaking in the sample tubing or analyzer is to be avoided, as it will directly affect the accuracy of the reading. For this reason stainless steel or a similarly strong and durable material should be used for sample tubing. 

Leaks can be detected by a "probe injection" of calibration gas. In this method calibration gas is injected close to, or directly at, the very end of the sample tube, and the reading is compared to that reading obtained from the routine calibration method (injection directly at the analyzer). 

Back to the Basics: Sample Line Length and Diameter

A major delay in the response time of the analyzer comes from the length and inner diameter of the sample tubing. 

The sample transport delay is increased by the square of the sample tube’s inside radius, and in direct proportion to its length. Doubling the inside diameter of the sample tube will quadruple the time delay it causes. Although the maintenance interval can be increased by the use of a large inner-diameter tube, such delays are usually unacceptable. 

Back to the Basics: Sample pre-conditioning and filtering

Because the analyzer response time is critical, large pre-conditioning filters in the sample line are to be avoided. The delay in a filter can be estimated by dividing the filter volume by the sample flow rate through the filter. 

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