Home Products & Industries Surface Treatment Case Studies Replacing IPA with BIOACT™ 105

Replacing IPA with BIOACT™ 105

Isopropyl Alcohol Alternative for Manual Cleaning

Why BIOACT® 105 Precision Cleaner Should Replace Isopropyl Alcohol?
Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) continues to be a popular manual cleaner in manufacturing settings because of its compatibility with a wide range of materials, reasonable performance and low cost.  Its familiar odor and fast evapor­ation make it agreeable to operators. However, environmental regulations have tightened and the demand for cleaning agents with better solvency and less environmental impact has continued to increase.  BIOACT 105 Precision Cleaner was developed to meet this demand.
BIOACT 105 was formulated by carefully selecting solvents that would allow it to quickly dissolve a wide variety of soils including adhesives, inks, asphalt, mold release compounds, buffing compounds, paint overspray, corrosion inhibitors, coolant, polishing compounds, fingerprints, sealants, greases, silicones, hydraulic fluids and waxes. The unique combination of solvents in BIOACT 105 make it a more powerful and a more ver­satile cleaner than IPA.
Non-volatile residue (NVR), i.e. residue which remains after the solvent has completely evaporated, is a concern associated with any solvent cleaner because these residues can potentially cause performance issues. Since Vantage has strict quality standards, BIOACT 105 will be con­sistent in purity and composition on a lot to lot basis. IPA, being a com­modity chem­ical, has a tendency to vary significantly in composition which in turn adds significant variability to the type and amount of residues that remain after cleaning.
Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) are now being regulated in most parts of the world. Fast evaporating solvents, such as IPA, are among the major sources of VOC emissions. Many manufacturers are now investigating alternative cleaning methods to lower or eliminate IPA emissions from their operations. IPA has been found to evaporate approximately 6.6 times faster than BIOACT 105 under simulated cleaning conditions (see the data in the Economics section).  In addition, IPA has a vapor pressure that is 29.3 times that of BIOACT 105. Table 1 shows the relative rates of VOC emissions by IPA and BIOACT 105 based on vapor pressure comparisons and the relative evaporations rate. As can be seen, simply converting from IPA to BIOACT 105 will reduce the rate of VOC emissions by 85-97%.

Table 1:  Relative Rate of VOC Emissions

Even though IPA has been used in manufacturing settings for decades, manufacturers are becoming more concerned about the flammability of IPA cleaning pro­cesses.  These cleaning processes typically operate at room temperature (approxi­mately 77 °F / 25 °C), which is well above the flash point of IPA (53 °F /12 °C). This means that the vapors from this process can be ignited if both an ignition source (welding torch, electric motors, etc.) and oxygen (which is always present in the form of air) are present.
The flash point of BIOACT 105 exceeds room temperature (105 °F / 41 °C), so the risks associated with its use at room temperature are considerably lower than those of IPA. In fact, BIOACT 105 can be used safely in the proximity of ignition sources, so long as BIOACT 105 is kept at room temperature (below its flash point). Furthermore, test results have demonstrated that BIOACT 105 provides better cleaning than IPA at ambient temperatures.
Using the lower explosive limit (LEL) values for the various components of BIOACT 105, all of which are similar, the LEL of BIOACT 105 at room temperature and atmospheric pressure is approximately 10,000 parts per million (1.0%).  The vapor pressure of BIOACT 105 is approximately 1.5 torr (1.5 mm Hg) at room temperature which corresponds to approximately 1,500 ppm.  Thus, under normal operating conditions, there is approximately seven times less BIOACT 105 vapor present in the air than is required for ignition. As a result, BIOACT 105 vapors cannot be ignited when the liquid is at room temperature.
The ingredients in BIOACT 105 were carefully selected to offer low toxicity without sacrificing performance, convenience or affordability. Under normal conditions, the vapors from BIOACT 105 are not irritating to the eyes, skin or respiratory tract.  In studies with rats, inhalation of saturated vapors (2500 ppm) of the non-linear alcohol in BIOACT 105 produced no adverse effects.  Likewise, there have been no reports of adverse inhalation effects in humans.  Similar results are expected for the other ingredients present in BIOACT 105.
The inhalation hazards associated with the use of solvent cleaners have become increasingly important to the prospective users.  The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) provides recommendations on exposure limits for a number of chemicals and solvents. Common recommendations include Short-term Exposure Limits (STEL), Threshold Limit Values (TLV) and Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL). In general the higher the TLV and/or PEL the better; however, neither the TLV nor the PEL values provide enough information to accurately judge the differences in the potential inhalation exposure hazards when comparing two solvents because they do not consider how likely each solvent will be volatilized.
Kob & Altnau1 proposed the use of the Vapor Hazard Ratio (VHR) as a more realistic way to compare the relative inhalation hazards of various solvents used for cold cleaning.  The VHR takes into consideration both the exposure limits and the vapor pressure of each solvent since the later will determine the likelihood of exposure to the solvent. The VHR for IPA and BIOACT 105 are 289 and 8, respectively (see Table 2). This implies IPA is a substantially greater inhalation hazard than BIOACT 105.
                                                        Vapor Pressure (mm Hg) x 106
Vapor Hazard Ratio (VHR)  =        --------------------------------------------------------
                                                        Exposure Limit (ppm) x 760 mm Hg

Note:  Vapor pressure is normalized to atmospheric pressure (760 mm Hg), and the factor 106 is used to bring the VHR into whole numbers. Higher numbers indicate higher risk.
Table 2:  Relative Inhalation Risks

BIOACT 105 has a mild citrus/alcohol odor and it has not been a serious concern to cur­rent customers. 
To determine the economic impact of using BIOACT 105 instead of IPA, a "use-cost analysis" can be performed. Relative use-cost information can be determined by evaluating the differences in evaporation rates, maximum soil loading, drag-out, process cycle time and the purchase price of the solvent. The data shown in the Table 3 below are from laboratory studies simulating open-tank, stencil cleaning processes.  These data show that an IPA bath evaporates approximately 6.6 times faster than a BIOACT 105 bath under the same conditions.
Table 3:  Evaporation Rates

Drag-out can also be a significant source of solvent loss.  In some high volume applications, drag-out accounts for as much as 50% of the total IPA loss.  Experi­ence has shown that drag-out per substrate is typically less for BIOACT 105 than IPA.  Combined with the lower BIOACT 105 evaporation rate, the consumption of IPA is typically between 5 and 8 times higher than BIOACT 105.  So, despite its higher per-gallon price, BIOACT 105 use-cost is competitive with IPA when one multiplies the price per gallon of IPA by a factor of 5 to 8, which accounts for the much higher consumption of IPA versus BIOACT 105.

Total cycle time is approximately the same for BIOACT 105 and IPA.  Since BIOACT 105 has higher solvency than IPA, the wash time is reduced. This com­pen­sates for the slightly longer drying time of BIOACT 105. Simple air movement around the substrates accelerates the drying time, making the drying time for BIOACT 105 faster than expected based on the evaporation rate data.
BIOACT 105 is compatible with all metals as well as most epoxies, flex laminates and other crosslinked polymers. The product is compatible with screen emulsions, stencils, ceramics and epoxy substrates as well as most electronic components. Emulsions used to bind stencils to frames may be attacked after prolonged exposure to the solvent or temperatures above 120 ˚F (49 ˚C). Table 4 summarizes the results of compatibility testing on common plastics and elastomers. The user is recommended to carry out compatibility testing to confirm suitability for use.
Table 4:  Plastic/Elastomer Compatibility of BIOACT 105

In summary, compared to IPA, BIOACT 105 is a more powerful cleaner, offers more process flexibility, substantially reduces the rate of VOC generated, is safer for employees, and costs less to use.

1 N. Kob and G. Altnau, “Vapor Hazard Ratio—Assessment for Solvent Risk Comparisons”, CleanTech Magazine, May 2001, pp 30-37.
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