On the 16th of September I attended the S-Lab conference at the university of Leeds. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event and I found it especially interesting to see how different institutions and companies dealt with the various challenges that lab design and operation takes and also how lab and work space design can encourage group work from a discipline and environment traditionally seen as very individual.
I went to a very interesting presentation given by Dorothea Mangels from the University of Warwick. The presentation was about the recovery of helium in science labs, through super cooling and compressing the gas back into a liquid. It was also interesting that the system they described for pumping the helium had one central container piped to wherever the helium is needed, rather than lots of smaller canisters, right next to where the helium is needed.
Before this talk I had not realised the importance of recycling lab gasses, and that gasses which are so abundant in the atmosphere could be so difficult and costly to extract in a usable state. Furthermore liquid Helium is a very difficult substance to deal with, as in its supercooled state it has 0 viscosity, meaning that as the molecule size of helium is very small it can pass through solid pipes. This means that loses are frequent, but the cost is less than the conventional small cylinder method of having helium in a lab.
Further information on the S-Lab conferences can be found at – http://www.effectivelab.org.uk/