Lab Manager Awards Tri-Color Fume Hood Visualizer

Re-published article from written by Holden Galusha

In a series of brand-new awards, Lab Manager is honoring individuals who have made exceptional contributions to their lab’s safety culture or, in this case, the safety of the science community at large. Chip Albright, president of Fume Hood Certified, was the recipient of the 2024 Innovative Safety Product award because of his work inventing the Tri-Color Fume Hood Visualizer, an innovative product that makes it more reliable and easier to test fume hood containment. In the words of Lab Manager senior safety editor Jonathan Klane, “The tri-color visualizer (TCV) is innovative in that it recognizes the significant limitations of only using face velocity as a means to assess a hood’s performance . . . I expect TCV to revolutionize how ESHR professionals, scientists, and others in the lab approach and evaluate fume hood performance.”

Associate editor Holden Galusha spoke with Chip about his journey and how the Tri-Color Visualizer came to be.

Q: Can you briefly discuss your background and what you do in your current role? 

A: I developed my first laboratory fume hood in 1985 while working at Kewaunee Scientific. Since then, I have developed seven generations of fume hoods. With over 40 years of industry experience, I have seen it all. While much of my current work was international, in 2020 I had to pivot, and I brought in four partners to expand Fume Hood Certified, which I founded in 2007. Our focus is making laboratories safer one fume hood at a time. A fume hood is an exposure control device; as such, it needs to contain to protect the users. Without proper testing, there is no way to validate safe performance. As founder and president of Fume Hood Certified, we focus on education to make users more aware of the hazards of working in and around fume hoods.

Q: What was your reaction to winning this award, and what does it mean to you to win?

A: When I first heard that we had won the Innovative Safety Product Award, I was overwhelmed with a mix of emotions: excitement, pride, and a profound sense of gratitude. It was a moment of validation for all the hard work, dedication, and innovative thinking that our team has put into developing our safety product. This award is not just a recognition of a product; it symbolizes the impact we are making in enhancing safety standards in our industry.

Winning this award means a great deal to me personally and professionally. On a personal level, it serves as a reminder of why we embarked on this journey: to make a meaningful difference in ensuring safety. It’s a testament to the belief that with the right focus and dedication, we can bring about significant changes in the way safety is perceived and implemented.

Professionally, this award propels our mission forward. It amplifies the importance of innovation in safety products and practices, encouraging us and others in the field to continue pushing boundaries. It’s a responsibility to uphold the trust placed in us by the industry and to continue setting higher standards.

In essence, this award is both an honor and a motivation. It’s an honor to be recognized among peers and leaders in the industry, and a motivation to keep striving for excellence in safety innovation. We see it as a stepping stone to further our commitment to creating safer working environments everywhere.

Q: What inspired you to create the Tri-Color Visualizer?

A: Another area of my expertise is “lean” production. There we say, “If you can’t see a problem, you can’t fix it.” Fume hoods are one of the most misunderstood and misused safety devices in a chem lab. Loss of containment is a performance failure. Not enough hoods have reliable containment testing. As such, there is no way to know if the hood is performing safely. We want to make fume hood containment testing simple, easy to understand the results, and very cost effective. We wanted the testing process to be educational. Having worked with lasers for visualization since 2007, it seemed this was a simple solution that would transform the way we do containment testing.

Q: What were the major challenges you faced in developing it?

A: Smoke visualization isn’t new. It was used in the first ASHRAE 110 back in 1985. But to do it properly and then interpret the results takes a lot of training. Plus, traditional smoke/fog generation has several shortcomings. It is hot and creates a heat gradient, and it has a high exit velocity which disrupts the airflow. To overcome this, we switched to haze and spent over a year developing the ejector.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

A: BBQ is a passion of mine. I enjoy outdoor cooking. Extra travel and related photography have always been part of my extensive business travel. And spending time with my children and grandchildren is very important as I grow older. Also, I find a good cruise is a perfect way to enjoy some down time.

Chip’s Career Journey

With a career spanning over decades, Chip Albright began his journey in 1980 at Kewaunee. Over the years, he has worked with several renowned companies, developing expertise in design, sales, manufacturing, installation, and testing. In 2007, Chip founded Fume Hood Certified, a laboratory fume hood training, testing, and troubleshooting provider and home of the Tri-Color Fume Hood Visualizer

In 2011, Chip took a pivotal step by becoming the President of ALC-Collegedale, a top contender in the industry. Today, at 70, Chip is recognized for his profound understanding of industrial processes and his leadership in the field. He continues to contribute his wealth of knowledge and experience, leading his team in making labs safer one fume hood at a time.

Note: AI was used to assist in the final production of this piece.