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What is a Glove Box?

The Ossila Glove Box

Glove boxes create a stable, sealed environment for handling hazardous materials, chemicals, or samples that react readily with air. Samples can be transferred into the glove box via the glove box antechamber, and glove box gloves can be used to manipulate the contents of the glove box.

There are two main types of laboratory glove box, isolation glove boxes (or inert atmosphere glove boxes) and containment glove boxes. Isolation glove boxes protect sensitive materials from the outside environment, while containment glove boxes protect the user from infectious samples or radioactive materials.

Inert atmosphere isolation glove boxes create an environment that is completely isolated from the external atmosphere by filling the main chamber with an inert gas, usually nitrogen or argon. This is known as purging. Once the glove box has displaced all the air in the system with the inert gas, the main chamber is sealed and the glove box maintains an overpressure to ensure that no gasses leak into the system.

Inert Atmosphere Processing

Inert is just another word for chemically inactive, so an inert atmosphere is a contained environment filled with a gas that won’t react with sensitive chemicals. Inert atmosphere glove boxes are useful for a wide range of experiments across several different fields, including materials science, chemistry, biological research, and pharmaceuticals.

Generally, nitrogen, argon or helium are used to create inert environments as they are very stable elements. Nitrogen is the most common choice for inert processing, as it is the cheapest choice. However, nitrogen environments can have issues with static which can make powder processing difficult. For some biological applications, H2 and CO2 can also be used to create an inert environment.

Broadly speaking, any application that involves samples that have any degree of sensitivity to water or oxygen would benefit from being performed inside a laboratory glove box. In some cases, you may find that working in an inert atmosphere is essential for the success of your experiment. In particular, it is important that you use a glove box when:

  • Working with or storing materials that oxidise, hydrolyse, or degrade when exposed to air
  • Working with hygroscopic materials that start to absorb water (and clump) as soon as they are exposed to ambient conditions
  • Working with pyrophoroic chemicals, such as alkali metals, metal hydrides and alkyl metal hydrides, which react violently with air or with moisture and must therefore be used under controlled, inert conditions
  • Working with emergent technologies that can suffer degradation if exposed to ambient conditions, such as modern material combinations used in 3rd generation photovoltaics or lithium-ion battery technology

What is a Glove Box Antechamber?

The antechamber is a smaller chamber used to transport items into or out of the main glove box chamber without compromising the internal atmosphere. Similarly to an air lock, there are sealable openings between the antechamber, the main chamber and the laboratory.

The Ossila Glove Box antechamber has similar functionality to the main chamber, but a much smaller volume. Like the main chamber, it is made from grade 304 stainless steel to reduce ingress. It also contains a high accuracy sensor board, which monitors its internal environment. Oxygen and moisture values are monitored at all times, and the automated antechamber purge function means the antechamber can reach inert conditions quickly and easily after being exposed to air.

Glove box Antechamber
The antechamber on the Ossila Glove Box

Positive Pressure vs. Negative Pressure

Gloveboxes can be held at positive or negative pressure. Negative pressure glove boxes are used as contamination glove boxes. These are kept below atmospheric pressure so if there any leaks in the system, air from the external environment will be pulled into the glove box. This will ensure that nothing escapes from the system into the outside environment, which will protect the users encountering from hazardous materials or solvents.

Isolation gloveboxes kept at a slight positive pressure, so if there are any leaks, inert gas will be expelled out into the laboratory. This will prevent oxygen/moisture seeping in and is used to protect sensitive materials from oxygen.

In both cases, the glove box chamber should only a few mbar above or below atmospheric pressure, and pressure should be carefully monitored while operational. It is important that your glove box has appropriate pressure safety precautions, such as the pressure release valve on the Ossila glove box, which will act to decrease internal pressure if needed and prevent any accidents.

Laboratory Glove Box

Ossila Glove Box
  • Low Price
  • Low Running Costs
  • Consistent Inert Atmosphere

Buy Online £8,500.00

The Ossila Glove Box
The Ossila Glove Box creates a cheap-to-maintain inert atmosphere for processing and chemistry

Glove Box Uses

Chemical synthesis

Inert atmosphere glove boxes are ideal environments for the synthesis of air and moisture sensitive materials. With an oxygen and moisture free environment, you can synthesise materials and prepare them for analysis without having to expose them to air. This increases the likelihood of success by reducing unwanted reactions with air or moisture.

You can customise your glove box for a wide variety of synthesis processes. The standard KF40 connectors allow you to run power, vacuum, cooling or nitrogen lines into the glove box, and large equipment can be taken in through the screen during the initial set up.

Additive manufacturing

Over the past decade, one of the most exciting developments in manufacturing is the adoption of additive manufacturing techniques. Multiple different methods are available for printing parts with techniques such as fused deposition method, stereolithography, and digital light printing.

These techniques rely on the use of thermoplastic polymers or polymer precursor resins that are reactive under UV light. Over time, exposure of these materials to humidity results in degradation in the quality of parts being manufactured. Recent research has shown that even exposure to humidity during the manufacturing process can cause problems. Conversely, processing in humidity free and inert atmospheres can produce parts with improved mechanical properties.

Materials handling and storage

Many materials and solvents can absorb moisture or react with oxygen when used or stored in ambient conditions. This can often result in permanent changes to the properties of the material and the process of removing water from the material can be both time consuming and difficult. You should therefore store these materials in an environment that limits exposure to either oxygen or water as much as possible. Glove boxes with low ingress rates are ideal for this, as they are much more economical to run than glove boxes made of materials like plastic.

Organic electronics

Organic semiconducting materials are important in a range of different fields of research, including LEDs, transistors, and photovoltaics. The promise of low-cost electronic devices with high performance has drawn in much research over the past two decades, leading to huge progress in all fields of organic electronic research.

To make a device using these materials, you need to deposit thin films (e.g. via spin coating, or with a dip coater or slot-die coater) on a substrate. A lot of these materials are sensitive to oxygen and moisture, so for the best results, you should fabricate these films in an inert environment.

Battery technology

Research into new varieties of battery technology is of paramount importance to modern technology. Efficient batteries such as those based upon lithium-ion technology require low levels of moisture throughout the manufacturing process. Exposure of the active materials to moisture leads to unwanted reactions which result in significantly reduced device performance. To overcome this, batteries are made inside completely dry environments.

Perovskite Electronics

Perovskite made in a glove box vs. perovskite made in air
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) data showing a perovskite thin film made in a glove box compared to one made in air

Organic metal halide perovskite materials are a revolutionary new category of materials that have applications in areas such as perovskite solar cells, light emitting diodes, perovskite quantum dots, and much more.

Although there are a wide variety of perovskite precursor materials with which you can make a perovskite solar cell, many of them are extremely sensitive to the presence of moisture. Fabricating thin film perovskite devices in atmosphere, even in a clean room environment, often leads to inconsistent morphology or incomplete conversion. This results in devices that either do not work or have worse power conversion efficiencies. The best performing PSC devices are made in glove box conditions.


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Inert Atmosphere Glove Box

Ossila Glove Box
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Buy Online £8,500.00

Contributing Authors

  • Jon Griffin
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