Environmental chambers – how do they work and what are their uses 

Environmental chambers are extremely useful and diverse pieces of laboratory equipment. Their main function is to help us understand how a certain product will behave in different environmental conditions such as in high humidity or extreme heat. Products are being tested for their durability and ability to withstand different conditions. Some of the main things that may affect the product are climatic changes, vibrations, humidity, heat, and solar radiation. If they prove to be unable to perform well, it’s time to locate the problem and start working on a solution. As manufacturers are able to spot any defects that allow them to fix them, they are decreasing their maintenance costs and are gaining a lot of new satisfied customers.

There are two main types of tests that can be performed and they include:

  • Subjecting the product to environmental stresses, such as humidity and temperature changes
  • Subjecting the product to mechanical stresses, such as vibrations and acceleration

The sizes of these chambers vary greatly as some are one cubic foot while others are big enough to drive a truck into them. This huge difference in chamber sizes is due to the need to test all sorts of different products, from boots to cars. As explains, these chambers provide test solutions for a wide range of industries, including electronics, energy, transportation, material processing, aerospace, and defense.

The conditions inside the chamber are controlled manually via an electric resistor. Manufacturers can either increase the heat or cool the chamber. Some chambers are also able to create a mist from a salt solution in order to simulate the corrosive effect of being close to the sea. On the other hand, humidity is controlled by evaporation or ultrasound technology.
Water vapor enters the chamber via a steam generator that creates steam by heating the water. As the steam rises and cools down, the humidity in the chamber increases.
If ultrasound technology is used, water vapor is created by running water on a diaphragm that vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies.

The most extreme test chambers are being used by NASA in order to test the equipment that is being used for space exploration and space flights.
There are different types of chambers for testing different products:

  1. Benchtop chamber is the smallest type of chamber and is mainly used for testing smaller products such as computer and vehicle components, or cellular phones. They can easily be placed on a laboratory benchtop which is where their name comes from.
  2. Upright or reach-in chambers range from 4 to 70 cubic feet and can stimulate many different environments by controlling the temperature, humidity, pressure, vibrations, etc. They are also quite spacious allowing you to test all sorts of different products.
  3. Thermal shock chambers are the most commonly used type of chambers. They are used for thermal testing and are able to move temperature from really high to really low quite rapidly. They are available in different sizes and configurations which makes them really diverse.

Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the started.

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