CleanRoom Particle Counters - Industry Expert Reviews, Comparisons and Comments

suggestions for cleanroom particle counters by the experts who author manuals and standards
Particle counter professionals have experience with cleanroom design, pollution control, air cleaners and facility monitoring

Need a Particle Counter for a Particular Type of Cleanroom?  Experts Compare Clean Room Particle Counters From Leading Manufacturers has teamed up with the best manufacturers of the Cleanroom Particle Counter Industry. We take the many models of the various clean room particle counters and put them into an easy to reference comparison chart. Our leading industry experts have years of experience with the various particle counter manufacturers and evaluate entry level to advanced cleanroom models.

Our team of industry professionals lay all the cards on the table and will help you evaluate the positives and negatives with respect to the various cleanroom air monitoring systems. No matter what level of cleanroom classification you are attempting to achieve; the years of experience our industry experts have will benefit you with your decision making process. We compare the top manufactures and list their strengths and weaknesses as well as listing their unique features and applications.

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Cleanroom Particle Counter Learning Area

Cleanroom particle counters have been specifically engineered for quantifying the degree of airborne particulate contamination in formats specified for federal and international classifications in the clean room industry.

Why do you need to test your cleanroom?
Semiconductor facilities and pharmaceutical manufacturers are examples of environments that require demanding air monitoring certification.  An accurate air monitoring and testing system is the only method for these facilities to maintain that level of cleanliness needed during environmentally sensitive production, packaging and transport. Some oom particle counters can activate alarms when contamination poses immediate threats to manufacturing processes.  An integrated facility monitoring system can even use a particle counter to trigger building automation.  Alternatively, these cleanroom particle counters can document emerging contamination trends to guide cleaning personnel in maintaining air quality in critical environments.

As the manufacturing process becomes more efficient with more products produced in the same space during the same amount of time, the greater the monetary loss in the event of contamination in a clean-room, mini-environment or critical environment. The greatest threat used to be the human component of the process. As the industry moves toward more robotic solutions for cleanrooms this does not completely solve the problem. In a minienvironment, numerous sources of contamination can exist including fan filter failure (FFU), excess contamination build up on the tool over time, improperly adjusted FFU speed, or mini-environment integrity failure.

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Cleanroom Consulting

Dan Milholland
& Associates
For over the last 30 years, Dan Milholland has played in integral part in writing the major cleanroom standards.  He has personally consulted NASA, presented to the FDA, served on the Expert Council for U.S. ISO 14644-1.

The only way to prevent losses is to catch a contamination event as it happens.  As production evolves, so must monitoring.  It used to be that one particle counter with a sequential sampling system was enough to monitor several cleanroom mini-environments.  To keep up with manufacturing efficiencies, one dedicated remote particle counter should be used to continuously monitor each mini-environment.  For more effective prevention, a small sequential manifold can extend the coverage of each remote particle counter to accurately and continuously monitor several locations within each minienvironmnet or process tool.  To remedy clean room contamination, a highly sensitive handheld particle counter can be used to locate the source of particle emissions.

Cleanroom classifications are based on national and international standards.  The three that we use are FS-209E, ISO-14644-1 and EC GMP.  In the United States, we use Federal Standard 209E, which has been recently replaced with ISO-146441.  Both standards are still used as we slowly make the transition. [More Cleanroom Standards Information...]

Cleanroom Particle Counter Reviews...

portable clean room airborne laser particle counters> Portable Particle Counters
If you only own one particle counter, or you are looking to buy your first particle counter for your cleanroom, a  portable particle counter is most likely to fulfill all your needs.  Of any configuration, portable is the most versatile.  It is a completely portable system with printer, data logging, PC connectivity and multiple channels that can be easily carried to locations for certifying or spot checking cleanrooms.  Though bigger, heavier and more expensive, it can easily do the job of a  handheld particle counter.  In addition, many can run a circuit of 4-20mA environmental sensors, giving you everything needed to certify cleanrooms.

Now consider continuous monitoring.  A portable particle counter provides continuous, real time monitoring with audible internal and external alarming, Modbus communication to integrate into a large facility monitoring system, NIST traceable and just about anything else that can go into a particle counter.  The portable particle counters will do an excellent job monitoring one contained area, but for continuous monitoring of large areas or multiple areas, consider a systems of remote particle counters.

Lighthouse SOLAIR 1100 PLUS

Lighthouse SOLAIR 3100

Lighthouse SOLAIR 3100 PLUS

Lighthouse SOLAIR 3100 PLUS Black

Lighthouse SOLAIR 3200 PLUS

Lighthouse SOLAIR 5100


Lighthouse SOLAIR 5100 PLUS

Lighthouse SOLAIR 5200 PLUS

Climet CI-200

Climet MicroPro 400

Climet MicroPro 500



handheld laser particle counters for cleanroom & IAQ> Handheld Particle Counters
The second cleanroom particle counter to consider is a handheld particle counter.  Inexpensive and easy to carry around, handheld particle counters are ideal for spot checking.  This capability is important for tracking down a source of contamination, testing filters, and generally verifying your cleanroom is working within specified parameters.  Available with a range of capabilities, from something that flashes the particle count across the screen, or spend a little more for NIST traceable calibration, data logging, facility monitoring system integration, multiple size channels, fully programmable and more.

Fluke 983 Handheld

Kanomax Handheld 3887

Kanomax Handheld 3886 GEO-Alpha

Kanomax 3800 Condensation Particle Counter

Lighthouse Handheld 2016

Lighthouse Handheld 3016

Lighthouse Handheld 3016 Black Series

Lighthouse Handheld 5016

IQAir ParticleScan CR\

IQAir ParticleScan PRO

Met One GT-321

Met One GT-521

Met One Aerocet GT-531 Aerosol Particle Profiler

remote particle counters and sequencing manifolds> Remote Particle Counters
Remote particle counters are appropriate for large cleanrooms or critical environments.  Sometimes called a dedicated particle counter, the remote particle counter is a very basic sensor that focuses on providing data on a few particle size channels to a remote terminal unit or control computer.  Most have no internal pump, data logging, limited controls or displays, just the bare essentials packaged into the smallest box possible.  Using a system of remote particle counters maximizes the number of points where data is collected, providing higher resolution and more coverage than using one portable unit.

To expand coverage further, a sequencing manifold can be used to place multiple probes in different areas feeding air samples into one particle counter.  The downside of multiplex manifold sampling is the time interval between samples.  The manifold collects air from one probe for a minute or so, before switching to the next probe.  Depending on how many locations are being sequenced, it may take an hour before the manifold makes its way back around to the first location, leaving you blind to each area for up to an hour at a time.  The trick is to balance your use of remote particle counters and manifolds as well as carefully choosing probe locations and order of sampling throughout the sequence.

Kanomax 3885 Condensation

Kanomax Remote 3714

Kanomax Remote 3715

Kanomax Cleanroom Monitoring System

Kanomax 3792 Laser Particle Sensor

Lighthouse Remote 1100

Lighthouse Remote 1104

Lighthouse Remote 2010

Lighthouse Remote 2012

Lighthouse Remote 2014

Lighthouse Remote 2014-P

Lighthouse Remote 3010

Lighthouse Remote 3010-Black

Lighthouse Remote 3012

Lighthouse Remote 3014

Lighthouse Remote 3014-P

Lighthouse Remote 3102

Lighthouse Remote 3104

Lighthouse Remote 5010

Lighthouse Remote 5012

Lighthouse Remote 5014

Lighthouse Remote 5014-P

Lighthouse Remote 5100

Lighthouse Remote 5102

Lighthouse Remote 5104

Aerocet 9012 Ambient Aerosol Particulate Profiler

Lighthouse Universal Manifold System

Lighthouse MiniManifold

> Surface Particle Counters
Over the years, there have been several methods of testing cleanroom surfaces for cleanliness.  A very common machine for testing surfaces is the surface scanner particle counter.  But we have excluded these devices from our list because they are customized to only test a particular wafer, panel or disk once every 24 hours, and cannot directly test surfaces of products, transport boxes, cassettes, or handling equipment.  Liquid particle counters can also be used, but can only test a part that can be transported to a station where it is emerged in liquid.  Optical and airborne parti
cle counters can use a special suction head with pressurized air jets that blow across the surface and suck particles into a vacuum inlet, but this method is not necessarily accurate either do to environmental factors or simply whether particles stick to the surface or release and fly down the vacuum.  An effective, yet labor intensive surface test method is using a microscope to visually inspect a surface and manually count particles.

wafer pod surface particle counterglancing light surface particle counterWhat we have included on this site, are a few surface particle counters that are accurate, repeatable, give quick results and are cost effective.  These include the Particle Guard Surface Particle Counter which uses glancing light, digital photography, and counting optics to provide immediate data & analysis without disturbing the surface, as well as the 2014 In-Process Wafer Pod Particle Counter.  The 2014-IP replaces microchip wafers, fits in standard SMIF and FOUP enclosures and counts particles in real time, providing immediate alarming and other features common to remote or handheld particle counters.

Lighthouse Particle Guard Surface Particle Counter

Lighthouse Wafer Pod 2014IP In-Process Particle Counter



Cleanroom Particle Counter Background (cont'd)...
ISO 14644-1 has replaced standards worldwide, though it is similar to Federal Standard 209E.  The major changes are as follows:

  • ISO creates 0.1um as the "Standard" Diameter
  • Air volume is measured in metric units
  • ISO establishes three new cleanliness classes -
    • Two "Cleaner" classes (ISO class 1 and ISO class 2) than Federal Standard 209E
    • One "Dirtier" Class (ISO Class 9) which is allows more particulate than Fed Standard 209E class 100,000
  • Allows for discarding of "Outliers" - Federal Standard 209E did not.  This is explained below.

Critical Environment Classification

Concentration (particles/meter) > or = Size Shown

FS 209E

ISO 14644-1 0.1 m 0.2 m 0.3 m 0.5 m 1.0 m 5.0 m
N/A 1 10 2        
N/A 2 100 24 10 4    
1 3 1,000 237 102 35 8  
10 4 10,000 2,370 1,020 352 83  
100 5 100,000 23,700 10,200 3,520 832 29
1,000 6 1,000,000 237,000 102,000 35,200 8,320 293
10,000 7       352,000 83,200 2,930
100,000 8       3,520,000 832,000 29,300
N/A 9       35,200,000 8,320,000 293,000

Discarding of Outliers...
You may base your certification or verification on one of the particle size counts listed in the table above, but the size you choose to monitor must provide a numerically stable count.  In other words, if you have an ISO class 1 cleanroom, the chart gives you maximum particle counts 10 particles of size 0.1 micron and a maximum of 2 particles of size 0.2 micron.  What if your count is off by a few particles?  Monitoring a room for 2 particles is less likely to be accurate than monitoring for 10 particles.  For any cleanroom classification, monitoring the micron size category with the smallest concentration leaves you the smallest room for error.  Now look at ISO classes 6, 7, 8 and 9.  The maximum concentration of particles of size 5.0 microns are relatively large numbers.  In these cleanrooms or critical environments, if your 5.0 micron count is off by a few particles, it would not completely change your results thus, these numbers are big enough to be stable.

Clean Room Particle Counter Product Reviews...

Clean room and particle counter industry expertJim Akey
Lighthouse Solair 3200 PLUS Portable Cleanroom Particle Counter
Lighthouse Solair 5200 PLUS Portable Cleanroom Particle Counter

Double Your Money... By Cutting Your Sample Time in Half!
The new Lighthouse Solair 3200+ / 5200+ (2.0 CFM) portable aerosol particle counter provides twice the flow rate of standard particle counters reducing the mandatory sample time by 50%! The higher flow rate is especially advantageous for cleanroom certifiers, but anyone required to monitor their controlled environments regularly would benefit from this reduced sampling time.

The Solair 5200+ is ideally suited for those in the Pharmaceutical industry, as the FDA generally requires monitoring the 0.5-micron and 5.0-micron sizes. For those required to scan their HEPA filtration systems, the Solair 3200+ (0.3 10.0 microns) would be the instrument of choice.

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