U.S. EPA Ground Level Ozone Targets Released

New US EPA Ground Level Ozone Targets Released

             If you’ve ever purchased high-end audio equipment, you’ve probably seen columns of specifications with an endless array of numerical values. With some, bigger is better, with others, smaller numbers have meant better quality. In addition to total audio bandwidth, one of the most critical values is the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR). SNR, as its name denotes, compares an amplified broadcast signal or recorded source signal tothe background noise that the equipment itself produces. In this case, the larger the SNR, the lower the distortion, and the more closely accurate the sound output is to a live performance. SNR’s have always been important in measuring instrumentation output as well. Now, with increasing demands on the detection limits of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, doing away with response noise has become more critical than ever before. It’s time to look at reducing or eliminating the causes of this noise wherever possible.

In the past weeks, the US EPA released its new ground level ozone target of 70 parts per million (ppm).  Reaching,Obtaining this threshold limit will require a significant boost in atmospheric testing for VOC (volatile organic compounds) in many industrial areas not previously under the radar. Depending on the demographic area, air sampling for sixty or more contaminants will be mandated, with special highly accurate multi-component mixtures of these volatile chemicals used to establish a baseline. Two variations of mixtures are available, with the concentrations of these components falling into two ranges, either a high range around 1 ppm, or a lower range mixture of components at 100 parts per billion (ppb).

As you might imagine, carrier gases now become a critical component of any plan to improve SNR. And because these gases aren’t supplied by the instrument provider, they can often be the most critiqued when questions come up. Where once “commodity type” specialty gas grades like “Zero”, “Pre-Purified” or “Ultra High Purity” could be acceptable for component detection as low as 500 -1000 ppm, Continuous Emissions Monitoring (CEM) now requires something better. And better means certified lower levels of impurities, with analytical certification of their actual concentration, as well as proper cylinder preparation to reduce wall off-gassing, and minimizing atmospheric contamination while under vacuum. Discharging of these gases also requires the proper pressure reduction device, again cutting contamination of the system through consistent cleaning and assembly, and choosing materials that will not react with the sample stream.

So what to do? Insist on carrier gases that minimize distortion, and provide as flat a baseline as is practical for the application. If analytical requirements require accuracy below 10 parts per million, use the best available carrier gases. Look for secondary purification as part of the packaging process, either by absorption media or cryogenic distillation. Ask about cylinder preparation, as the gas is only as good as the container that holds it. And ask about record keeping, and the accuracy of the reference standards, once again because a low level oxygen impurity report is meaningless if the instrument isn’t correctly calibrated, or the calibration gas has no traceability to a defined standard.

Gases like PurityPlus® Grade 6.0 Helium and Ultra Zero Air, with a full certificate of analysis  can easily meet the demands of an increasingly precise world. Try them, you’ll be well satisfied.

For more information about Sidney Lee Medical & Scientific Gases and its wide array of specialty gases and specialty gas equipment, we can be contacted at 770-946-4287 or via email at Grace.hoffman@sidneylee.com.
October 14, 2015
Rich Mansmann