When VaporLok Products LLC discovered that broken lamps inside standard lamp-recycling packaging release mercury vapors far exceeding OSHA levels for safe exposure, the company’s R&D team came up with a solution.
“This discovery inspired the development of our new carbon-based adsorbent technology, called VaporLokCapture
,” explains Todd Anderson, chief operating officer for Mankato, Minn.-based VaporLok Products.
In an interview with New Equipment Digest, Anderson asserts that VaporLokCapture
is the only lamp-recycling packaging on the market that can contain and capture mercury vapors from broken lamps.
NED: What led VaporLok to develop this particular product?
: Incidental exposure to mercury vapors from fluorescent lamps that break during use, storage and transport to a recycler is a serious problem. In response to this issue, in 2005, we developed a mercury-vapor-barrier solution using a foil bag — Mercury VaporLok — that achieves near 100 percent containment of mercury vapors caused by broken lamps.
However, we made an important discovery that forced us to continue to innovate. We tested mercury-vapor levels resulting from broken lamps inside
standard lamp-recycling packaging and found that they can exceed 300 times the safe levels for human exposure established by OSHA. This discovery inspired the development of our new carbon-based adsorbent technology, called VaporLokCapture
NED: How is this product different from similar ones currently being offered?
: Our lamp-recycling packaging is the only packaging on the market that can both contain and capture harmful mercury vapors from broken lamps.
Most competitors’ packaging consists of a combination of cardboard and plastic layers, neither of which can contain mercury vapors. Further, no competitor utilizes an adsorbent technology in their packaging.
The effectiveness of VaporLokCapture
is impressive. After 15 minutes, there is a 60 percent reduction in mercury-vapor level. After one hour, the reduction is over 70 percent; and after 12 hours, over 95 percent.
NED: Any particular problems that came up during the development process?
: Research and development was contracted with our strategic partner, NUCON International Inc., a worldwide leader in providing gas, vapor and liquid phase adsorption solutions for mercury and other contaminants to the nuclear and other industries.
Carbon, impregnated with various chemicals, has been used for decades to adsorb mercury vapors in gas streams. Our challenge was to create an adsorbent that attracted the mercury molecules absent a consistent air flow inside the recycling package.
Numerous chemicals were tested with carbon with varying effectiveness. Most of the adsorbents had fairly high adsorption capacity for mercury, but the rate (kinetics) of the removal was very slow in the absence of air movement inside the package.
To improve the mercury-removal rate, the developed adsorbent was reduced in size and incorporated in an inert foam matrix. Furthermore, the chemicals used to impregnate the carbon had to react with mercury by forming an insoluble compound to meet simple handling and disposal requirements of the used pads.
NED: How long did it take to final production?
: Three years.
NED: Did cost factors affect the final design of this product?
: Cost was definitely a factor in the design. We had to strike a balance between the size of the adsorbent pad that does an effective job with the related cost. We believe we have done that. Cost is particularly important for retail/consumer solutions.
NED: Who do you view as the primary users of this product and how will they benefit?
: For the commercial/industrial sector, VaporLokCapture
is an integral component of Waste Management LampTracker’s universal-waste recycling systems for fluorescent lamps, dental waste and mercury devices. Sold primarily to businesses, including a number of Fortune 500 companies, the LampTracker program
is the nation’s largest universal-waste mail-back recycling program that offers recycling solutions for all types of fluorescent lighting (4, 6, 8 feet; U-bent; compact; etc.).