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Fume Containment Solutions for the Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre

Clean Air has designed, manufactured and installed 39 bench-mounted, walk-in and extra-large walk-in fume cupboards for a prestigious new site. The new fume cupboards are for The University of Manchester’s state-of-the-art Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC).

The advanced specification fume cupboard designs have been created to meet the exacting requirements of this £60m world-leading international research and technology facility.

Opened in 2018, the GEIC is tasked with accelerating the commercial impact of graphene, developing industry-led applications in partnership with academics. The brightest minds are advancing the future of this revolutionary material and Clean Air’s fume cupboards are integral to this important work.

Clean Air is a leading UK specialist in the design, manufacture, testing, installation and maintenance of high-quality fume cupboards and fume extract systems.

The Brief  

Graphene, the world’s thinnest, lightest, strongest material, was isolated by two researchers at The University of Manchester in 2004.

Since that first isolation, The University of Manchester has been home to pioneering research into graphene and now houses the world-leading National Graphene Institute (NGI).

The GEIC is designed to capitalise on the NGI’s research, engaging with the global industry to develop commercial applications for graphene.

New Equipment for Scale Up

This step-change from research to applying the almost limitless possibilities graphene presents to everyday products and services requires a different approach to innovation.

A different set of equipment is necessary to handle greater volumes of material through proof of concept testing and into a production environment.

Supplier Due Diligence

This equipment will be worked hard as the GEIC fulfils its remit and upscales to production capacities.

The fume cupboards in which many processes will be proven are a key piece of safety and production equipment. A stringent due-diligence exercise was undertaken to ensure the fume cupboards selected fulfilled the robust value matrix criteria.

Among other requirements the supplier needed to:

The Clean Air Solution

The GEIC is an advanced upscaling facility where potential industrial applications of graphene and other 2D materials are commercialised in partnership with the industry. Clean Air has created a suite of scaled fume cupboards that offer excellent fume containment. They are tailored and sized to each set of processes they will be used for. To accommodate varying types of equipment, they range from 2m units to the huge extra-large walk-in fume cupboards.

Operator safety has been engineered at every step, as has ease of access for maintenance.

Step 1 – High Performance Radius Profile Fume Cupboards

Twenty-seven High Performance Radius Profile bench-mounted fume cupboards have been supplied for the chemistry laboratories.

The units have either polypropylene or stainless-steel internal liners to suit the chemical processes being conducted. They house one to two-litre testing quantities.

Step 2 – Walk-In Fume Cupboards

Two walk-in fume cupboards offer extra flexibility and provide the testing environment for intermediary proof of upscale.

With an internal capacity of over 2.5 m³, up to five-litre enclosed reaction vessels can be comfortably accommodated. While experiments can be conducted inside these fume cupboards.

Step 3 – Extra-Large Walk-In Fume Cupboards

The ten substantial, extra-large walk-in fume cupboards in the Pilot Hall have an important role to play in the development of low-cost, scalable manufacturing methods for high-quality graphene.

Once a concept is proven, the extra-large walk-in fume cupboards will be used to demonstrate the process can be undertaken in a production environment.

They have a significant internal volume of 7.8 m³. Within them, ten-litre vessels, one-metre conical flasks, differential pressure rigs and gas bottles, among other apparatus, can be used.


These fume cupboards provide excellent containment. To ensure this containment is maintained in such large units a bespoke opening system was devised to offer safety and ease of use.

Each of the extra-large walk-in fume cupboards has a series of four sash arrangements. The top fixed panel features four horizontal sliding sashes to allow for adjustments to the equipment located in the unit and for maintenance access.

All three of the vertical rising sashes below raise to stack neatly behind this top panel, allowing large apparatus to be quickly and easily installed or removed. The top two of these are motorised and have an auto-closing system to both protect operators and save energy.

Energy-Saving Fume Cupboard Technology

The technologically advanced integrated alarm and auto sash control panel monitors the face velocity across the sash openings and controls the energy-saving Variable Air Volume (VAV) system.

The VAV system itself reduces the volume of air pulled through the fume cupboard, so the lab needs to replace less conditioned air. In combination with the auto sash closure, this can significantly reduce energy costs.

HEPA Filters

These fume cupboards use HEPA filter technology to remove fine particulates before the extraction system vents the fumes.

Clean Air reinforced the top of each unit to carry the weight of the large, safe-change HEPA system. To make maintenance as safe and simple as possible a platform has been incorporated to support engineers when the filters need to be replaced.

Easy Access to Services

Specialised service columns are located to the accessible side of each extra-large walk-in fume cupboard, again with maintenance in mind.

Each unit has its own bespoke set of gas services with regulated controls and twelve electrical sockets. The sockets include one high-voltage 3 phase electrical supply and a pass-through port.

The generous working space is complemented with twin lighting circuits which the operators can control to their preference.

Fire Safety

The fire suppression systems are also contained within the service columns. They are optimised to suit the large internal volumes of the extra-large walk-in fume cupboards, featuring both soffit mounted and low-level injectors.

Easy Waste Removal

Clean Air also designed and built a system for the manual handling and removal of chemical waste from the fume cupboards.

An alarm alerts the operator when the Carboy waste container reaches a certain volume. A pull-down steel ramp and mobile platform feature quick-release change-over valves for a fast and safe exchange of containers.

Performance Assurance

Clean Air offers in-house type-testing and commissioning expertise to give assurance of its fume cupboards’ excellent containment.

The bespoke designs were tested to meet BS EN 14175 at Clean Air’s in-house facility using its cutting-edge type-testing rig. Members of the GEIC team visited to observe the tests.

The bench-mounted, walk-in and extra-large walk-in fume cupboards were installed and commissioned by Clean Air’s professional teams of engineers.

For more information about Clean Air’s design and manufacturing capability speak to our friendly team.