QUESTION: What’s the difference between a cleanroom and a controlled environment?

ANSWER: A cleanroom has much stricter requirements, most specifically for airborne particles.

Cleanrooms are actually a type of controlled environment, so let’s think about it in terms of what separates cleanrooms from other controlled environments.

At minimum, a controlled environment must meet three conditions: complete separation from other areas, fully controlled temperature, and air pressurization. 

Cleanrooms are just a highly regulated type of controlled environment. In addition to the three aforementioned conditions, controlled environments must also regulate the number of airborne particles through HEPA filtration and strict contamination control procedures. 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets classifications for cleanrooms based on the maximum number of allowable airborne particles, ranging from ISO 3 to ISO 8. Lower numbers denote a higher level of cleanliness. For example, an ISO 5 cleanroom permits 100,000 particles per square meter of air, which may not sound all that impressive. But when you consider that simply standing up or sitting down in normal clothing releases 2.5 million particles, you realize just how impressive cleanrooms really are.  

Both cleanrooms and controlled environments are essential for applications that require specific conditions for successful outcomes. These applications can span almost every industry you can think of and are vital to things you use in everyday life, from medicines to motor vehicles. But you may be surprised to find out which applications require a cleanroom and which require a controlled environment. Many laboratories are relatively simple controlled environments, but the circuits in your computer were made in stringently controlled cleanrooms.

Do you have any questions about what you need to best support your processes and applications? Contact us today and we can help your keep your cleanroom or controlled environment operating at peak cleanliness.