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HEAT TRANSFER HEATERS PROMOTE DESIGN INNOVATION


traditional metal heaters. These heaters must be inserted into another block of metal inside the equipment in order to perform their thermal job. As the heater sheath and the block are made of metal, they cannot meet the ion source and often require additional electrical isolation. These design trade-offs require a larger


carbon footprint, as well as a more complex assembly procedure. Metal-sheathed heaters also typically require longer heat-up and cool-down times, given that there is more mass in the heater and holder. This results in slower system startup and changes between set points. Advances in ceramic heater technology


Andy Selvy, chief system designer at Watlow, explores the benefits of advanced ceramic heaters and how ULTRAMIC heaters support innovative analytical equipment designs


A


dvanced ceramic heaters offer numerous benefits in the design of analytical equipment. Many of the


heaters used in industry today are metal sheathed, a long-standing technology that has been available for over 30 years. While such heaters are excellent for a variety of complex thermal applications, today’s newer and more advanced analytical equipment requires higher performance and precision.


Detective work


Analytical equipment, such as gas- chromatograph mass spectrometers (GC-MS), is used to determine the presence of trace chemicals, alcohols and hormones and separate complex mixtures in a number of research, industrial and clinical applications. For example, GC-MS detect concentrations of drugs in blood, as well as contaminants in air, water and soil, and can help to develop new pharmaceutical products. The MS component breaks each separated


compound coming from the GC into ionized fragments, which requires a high energy beam of electrons to pass through the sample molecule to produce electrically charged particles or ions. The equipment requires the ionization of the sample and inert gas, and so a heating


element that can reach a precise temperature quickly is a vital component. However, many legacy heating technologies that have exerted their performance and reliability, now must be designed to reflect the smaller, higher throughput analytical equipment that is taking over the market. This means heaters must also be smaller to enable miniaturisation and optimise performance.


Advances in ceramic heater technology have overcome many existing issues and offer greater design flexibility


“ Modern advanced ceramic heaters can


achieve higher performance and precision criteria, while allowing for greater design flexibility and faster time to market. To appreciate the recent innovation in


heating technology, it helps to understand some of the limitations faced by more





overcome many of these issues and offer greater design flexibility and performance. Advanced ceramic heaters allow equipment designers to create room for new components, reduce a machine’s overall footprint, improve accuracy and performance, all while simplifying the manufacturing and assembly process. To allow for more innovative designs,


Watlow has developed ULTRAMIC, an advanced, high-performance ceramic heater. The ceramic heaters are designed for optimal performance in thermal applications where rapid thermal cycling and more precise control is needed.


A clean heat source


ULTRAMIC heaters are constructed from aluminium nitride (AIN) and incorporate a thermally matched, proprietary heating element. AlN is especially suitable for applications requiring a clean, non- contaminating heat source. Additionally, excellent geometric stability ensures consistent part-to-part thermal contact during heating cycles. These components, used together in the


right circumstances, give rise to a number of features including high electrical isolation, with low-leakage current, superior chemical resistance, high thermal conductivity and temperature uniformity across the heater surface, plus high durability. Today’s analytical equipment has


surpassed the innovation of heaters designed 30 years ago. To ensure design innovation is not limited, designers must consider more advanced heaters in their equipment. Advanced ceramic heaters are smaller,


respond faster and can be more resistant to environmental contamination compared to conventional heaters. In particular, Watlow’s ULTRAMIC advanced ceramic heaters can help analytical equipment manufacturers improve product performance and design, as well as accelerate their time to market.


Watlow www.watlow.com


JULY/AUGUST 2021 | PROCESS & CONTROL 11


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