Precision Temperature Control for Demanding Research Applications

Mike Lawless, IMEG Corp.
Ryan Sprangers, IMEG Corp.

This presentation will cover the need for precision temperature control in various research facilities, answering questions such as:

  • What does tight temperature control (e.g., +/- .2F) mean to a researcher?
  • How much control is needed?
  • Does the temperature need to be tightly controlled everywhere in the room, or is the researcher more interested in stability?

IMEG presenters—both with much experience designing science and technology projects—will discuss these questions using examples from recent projects at two higher education facilities:

  • University of Chicago: A laser laboratory for Cheng Chin's research, which involves studying ultracold atoms and molecules and their formation of superfluids, which requires temperature stability of +/-0.5F.
  • Washington University at St. Louis: Bryan Hall's Holten and Loomis laser labs, and Patti Lab, which utilizes leading mass spectrometry technology to advance research in various areas. These labs house some of the most sensitive research on the campus and must maintain a stable temperature control of +/-0.2F for accurate and repeatable results.

Among other insights, these labs illustrate how understanding the types of research conducted in a facility is critical to determining the temperature control needed when designing systems.

The presenters will also discuss strategies to achieve precise temperature, including:

  • Air change rates: ACH increases in order to obtain tight control and limit stratification
  • Air distribution: Points of supply and return need to be evaluated, and possibly modeled
  • AHU arrangement
    • Ventilation air is ideally conditioned by a different AHU to limit changing variables on the critical system
    • Pumped coils are necessary to avoid water stratification at low load/flow
    • Dehumidification/reheat needs to be considered based on quantity of zones and/or if dehumidification is occurring locally
  • Flexibility of the layout: the point of control can vary in the space using wireless or multiple sensors
  • Central utilities: limit variation in supply temperatures to decrease/eliminate changing variables
  • Redundancy is often necessary/desired based on the critical nature of the work, but should be coordinated with the users.

The presenters will also discuss challenges with sustainability and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for labs.

Learning Objectives

  • understand how to determine researchers' needs for temperature control.
  • be able to make system decisions to support precise temperature control to +/-.5F or better.
  • understand the need for system redundancy to deal with outages.
  • be able to understand energy efficiency and researcher perceptions.


Mike Lawless is an associate and client executive for IMEG Corp. in St. Louis, where he leads the Science & Technology Team. He has one of the deepest laboratory portfolios at the firm and led many of IMEG's largest projects, including the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center's Research Laboratory Addition and the Washington University School of Medicine's new Research Building. He is a member of ASHRAE and SFPE. He also has received several ASHRAE Society and Regional Technology Awards.

Ryan Sprangers is an associate principal and project executive for IMEG Corp. and currently manages IMEG's San Francisco office. Ryan's portfolio has a strong emphasis in Science and Technology. He was intimately involved in the design and/or commissioning of several large laboratory research buildings including the Advanced Chemical Technology Building at University of Illinois Chicago, Wheaton College Science Center, and Argonne National Laboratory's Energy Science Building.


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