Precision Control of Laboratory Environments

Marvin Kirshenbaum, Argonne National Laboratory
Lester Erwin, Argonne National Laboratory

Precision control of the laboratory space environment is a fundamental requirement for many scientific measurement applications and experiments. While this includes a number of factors, acoustics, humidity, air quality, etc., space and process temperature control predominates in many situations. Space and process temperature fluctuations can induce dimensional changes that exceed the stringent operating parameters required by the tool set or supporting structures. How to design and operate systems is dependent on a number of factors including, space geometry and location, scientific equipment operating characteristics, space temperature set points, frequency of space entry and egress, and outdoor environment conditions and seasonal changes. Our work at Argonne National Laboratory has focused on temperature control for experiment enclosures, microscope laboratories, laser rooms, and clean rooms. We have provided precision temperature control for process cooling water systems that stabilizing magnets, vacuum chambers, and various scientific equipment used in exploring the structure of materials and process at the molecular and Nano scale levels. An additional area of extreme interest is the leveraging of compatible sustainable heat recovery sources to enhance temperature stability for specific applications.

Critical to achieving specified tolerances are the control strategies employed to manage the controlled variable and an understanding of how system design and configuration can enhance or destabilize a system. Regardless of the sophistication of the temperature control software and hardware, an improperly designed system will not lend itself to the maintenance of specified environmental conditions. While proper system component selection has a key role in achieving design goals, the system design concept itself must represent a cohesive synthesis of design elements. The proper selection, arrangement, and interaction of these elements is essential with the primary goal being the creation of a system that tends to operate within a prescribed balance point for the anticipated service. We will explore the various types of environments we have encountered and describe the design and control strategies used to achieve the required performance metrics including description of system designs, control strategies, selections of sensors, and instrumentation. We will examine coupling and decoupling of control loops and their effect on time delay in reaching temperature set point. We will also briefly touch on areas of acoustics and the interrelation to maintaining clean room space cleanliness levels and opportunities they provide for saving substantial energy in the air deliver systems.

Learning Objectives

  • Understanding the basic nature and types of critical environment temperature control spaces;
  • How spatial geometry and the characteristics of the scientific tool set combine to affect system design approaches;
  • How sustainable energy sources and heat recovery systems can enhance precision temperature control; and
  • Define and describe driven and non driven mechanical system design approaches and their applicability to specific spatial geometries and tool set characteristics.


Marvin Kirshenbaum is a Project Engineer at Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source facility. He has served on a number of DOE design and construction review committees, a member of I2SL, ASME, and an ASHRAE Life Member. Mr. Kirshenbaum holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and has done postgraduate work at the University of Illinois, Chicago and the Spertus Institute in Chicago Illinois.

Lester Erwin is currently a Principal Engineering Specialist with the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory. He works in the Diagnostics Group whose mission is to design, implement, and maintain particle and photon beam diagnostics for the accelerators and transport lines to support reliable operation and accelerator research and development efforts. He has been instrumental in the building, testing, and improvement of control systems. His degree is in Applied Science.


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