Canister Sampling

Jun 14, 2018

Environmental Enlightenment #244

SUMMA relates to Sumo only by sound and intonation. For some, SUMMA canisters raise images of the Sumo fighter.

The SUMMA canister for whole air sampling was developed in 1965 by Dr. Hutton and Dr. Rasmussen who were then with the U.S. Army.

The word SUMMA was the trademark of Molectrics, for the proprietary electrochemical polishing process that was used on the stainless steel canisters and comes from Latin meaning “highest” and probably referred to the quality of their electropolishing. (Unattested Internet source.)

These canisters are versatile and are used to sample for indoor air quality, environmental compliance, worker exposure, and other applications.

A “whole air” sample is collected when the air is drawn into the canister.

Here are SUMMA canisters being used to collect indoor and outdoor air samples.

In this picture, we draw a sample from the subsurface air inside a monitoring well. The black stand pipe with white cap is a part of the well that projects above the pavement.

The canister comes from the lab under (almost) absolute vacuum.

At first, the vacuum pump (to the right) purges the well for a few minutes to ensure that the sample will be representative of the subsurface environment. At this time, the valving blocks the canister. Then we change the valves so that the pump is blocked from the well and blocked from the canister; and the canister opens towards the well. The air sample now enters the empty canister.

I never attended Sumo wrestling, except watching some in the 1967 James Bond flick You Only Live Twice, where Mr. Connery had not yet sported a beard. Working with SUMMAs evokes memories of that film.


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