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A gas tank valve is a device that regulates or prevents the flow of a liquid or gas through a system. Although simple in concept, these components are critical to a variety of industries. But what is the difference between an industrial gas valve and a medical gas valve?

In this article, we’re going to examine this more closely. Read on to learn more about the differences between medical and industrial gas valves and why it’s so important to select the right system component for the job.

Key Differences Between Medical and Industrial Gas Tank Valves and Systems

Before we expand upon the key differences between these valve categories, we first need to understand the nature of the valve itself. Each type of valve is designed for a highly specialized function. For example, you might find a butterfly valve within your medical gas system, but this valve may only be rated for use with a gas cylinder of a specific size. Larger capacity systems may require a different medical gas valve.

It’s the same story with industrial gas valves. You may utilize a check valve that prevents gases from backing up in the system, but this will not enable your personnel to manually regulate the flow — you’ll need a different type of valve for this, like a globe or gate valve. These, too, will be rated for specific gases and applications.

The point is — there is no group of valves that can be used interchangeably in the medical sector, just like there is no corresponding group in the industrial sector. Instead, it is crucial that each valve is checked and tested before it is deployed. There are, however, some general differences that influence the use of industrial and medical gas valves.

The Extent of Regulation

Both medical and industrial gas tank valves are subject to regulation, but the extent of this regulation is somewhat different depending on the type of valve you are using.

Medical valves must support the health and well-being of the patient. This means they must be kept clean and sanitized regularly to ensure there is no contamination in the gas provided to the patient. Purity is always taken into consideration with regard to medical oxygen valves, but other types of medical gas tank valves will be subject to this regulation too.

Industrial valves are regulated differently. Just like medical valves, these also must support high levels of health, safety, and well-being, but this relates to preventing leakage and minimizing the risk of fire and explosion. As industrial gases are not intended for human consumption — and so are not delivered directly to patients — there is less regulation with regard to the purity of the gas or the hygiene of the valve or another system component. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will regulate medical gas systems but not industrial gas tank valves. Different bodies may impose their own guidelines on industrial gas tank valve maintenance and gas purity standards, however.

The Type of Gas

Industrial and medical valves are intended to handle different types of gas. This is why it is important for medical and industrial facilities to make sure they are using specially designated valves for each application.

Medical facilities utilize various gases on a regular basis, delivering these gases directly to the patients under their care. The most common types of gas used are medical air, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and nitrous oxide.

Industrial gases tend to be far more wide-ranging and are divided into two categories — process gases and atmospheric gases. A process gas is used to drive a specific operation, such as butane gas that provides fuel for burners. An atmospheric gas, on the other hand, delivers the conditions required to complete an operation rather than driving the operation itself. This might include argon and xenon, which provide inert environments that prevent unwanted chemical reactions.

Other than medical air, all of the commonly used medical gases are also deployed in an industrial setting. In addition, argon, ozone, neon, helium, krypton, methane, and hydrogen are some of the commonly used industrial gases. Both industrial and medical facility managers need to make sure they are using gas tank valves that are rated for each specific gas.

The Purpose of Deployment

Medical gases are deployed for a number of reasons, although all generally involve the direct delivery of gases to the patient. Typically, gases are utilized for pain relief and analgesic purposes, as well as general anesthesia. Valves may be operated manually by a medical professional, or they may be integrated with smart systems to achieve automated and precise functionality — solenoid valves are a good example of components in this latter category.

As mentioned, industrial gases are not designed for human consumption but can be deployed in many other applications — far more than medical gases. We’ve touched upon the broad categories of process and atmospheric gases above, but this is just scratching the surface. For example, acetylene gas may be used for achieving the high-temperature flame required for some types of welding, while carbon monoxide may be used as a catalyst or as a constituent within a chemical reaction. With such a broad set of use cases and a wide range of properties, industrial gases are incredibly diverse — as a result, industrial gas tank valves are highly diverse too.

Remaining Aware of Specific Requirements and Valve Types

Both medical and industrial facility managers need to be aware of the type of gas they are using and the purpose of the system. This knowledge means they can make sure they are exclusively using valves that are properly rated for the job at hand. The wrong type of valve can result in a system malfunction, leading to serious inefficiency at best and serious danger at worst. While industrial gases like acetylene and carbon monoxide are well known to be hazardous to human health, medical gases can be extremely dangerous too. Any gas leak or system rupture can lead to the risk of fire, explosion, poisoning, or other disastrous consequences.