As the name indicates, airlock means a locking system which is produced by utilizing air pressure. In simple words, we can say that the airlock system is a locking system for the protection of clean areas from contaminants which can contaminate the clean rooms during man and material flow.

HVAC systems can create differential pressure between two spaces, which can lead to the creation of an airlock.WHO recommends maintaining a differential pressure of 10-15 pascals. The system’s cost likewise rises in order to achieve a higher differential pressure.

Types of Airlocks:

Cascade Airlock:

Cascade airlocks maintain pressure differentials in facilities, allowing controlled transitions between spaces with varying cleanliness levels. They have multiple interlocked doors, creating chambers with increasing or decreasing pressure levels, effectively containing contaminants. They are commonly used in segregating manufacturing processes or maintaining cleanliness levels.

Bubble Airlock:

A bubble airlock, also known as a differential pressure airlock, is a type of airlock commonly used in cleanroom environments and controlled manufacturing areas. It is designed to control the movement of personnel and materials while maintaining the cleanliness and integrity of the surrounding environment.

Sink Airlock:

Airlocks with low pressure inside and high pressure on both sides of the airlock. This airlock draws air from both adjacent spaces, forming a low-pressure barrier that decreases the possibility of contaminants entering the inside zone.

Difference between Cascade, Bubble and Sink Airlock:

Cascade AirlockBubble AirlockSink Airlock
Principle of OperationMultiple interlocked chambers with gradually increasing or decreasing pressure differentials to control airflow between areas.Single chamber with a rising or falling column of air to control airflow between areas.Single chamber with unidirectional airflow to control airflow between areas.
Pressure DifferentialMultiple pressure differentials are created within the chambers to maintain separate environments.Pressure differential is created by the rising or falling column of air in the chamber.Positive pressure differential is maintained in the chamber to prevent contaminants from entering.
Applications– Cleanroom transitions between areas with different cleanliness levels.  
– Containment of hazardous substances. 
– Sterile manufacturing processes.  
– Material transfer between areas with different cleanliness or containment levels.
– Isolation or segregation of specific processes or activities.
– Cleanroom transitions between areas with different cleanliness levels. 
– Simple separation of environments with minimal pressure control requirements.
– Cleanroom transitions between areas with different cleanliness levels.
 – Effective containment of contaminants and prevention of cross-contamination.
Control of ContaminationMaintains multiple pressure differentials to prevent cross-contamination and particulate migration.Provides a rising or falling column of air to prevent cross-contamination and maintain separation.Maintains positive pressure within the chamber to prevent the entry of contaminants.
ComplexityMore complex design with multiple chambers and pressure differentials.Relatively simple design with a single chamber and rising or falling column of air.Relatively simple design with a single chamber and positive pressure control.
FlexibilityAllows for controlled transitions between areas with varying cleanliness or containment requirements.Provides a moderate level of control for transitions between areas with different cleanliness levels.Provides effective separation and prevents the entry of contaminants, particularly in cleanroom environments.
Safety ConsiderationsCritical for containment of hazardous substances or potent compounds.Limited safety considerations beyond maintaining cleanliness and separation.Important for maintaining the integrity of cleanroom environments and preventing cross-contamination.

In a Nutshell

Airlocks are critical in the pharmaceutical sector for protecting the integrity and cleanliness of regulated environments. Some of the most frequent varieties include personnel airlocks, material airlocks, equipment airlocks, and cascade airlocks, each of which serves a specific purpose. These airlocks allow individuals, materials, and equipment to be moved while minimizing the danger of cross-contamination and adhering to regulatory regulations.

Pharmaceutical facilities can efficiently design and implement controlled environments that prioritize product quality, safety, and regulatory compliance by understanding the many types of airlocks and their applications.

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