Best Phosphine Gas Detector (2024 update)
A phosphine detector, also known as a PH3 gas detector, senses the concentration of phosphine (PH3) in the air. These devices are used for personal protection in hazardous gas environments. Phosphine is used as an insecticide and rodenticide for grains, tobacco, and animal feed. In addition, the gas is used as an intermediate in many chemical processes.
What Is the Best Phosphine Gas Detector?
There are many phosphine gas detectors on the market. The reputable brands include the following:
- Forensics Detectors Phosphine Detector
- RC Systems Phosphine Detector
- Draeger PH3 Detector
- Honeywell PH3 Gas Detector
What Is a Phosphine Gas Detector?
A phosphine (PH3) gas detector is an instrument used to detect the concentration of phosphine in the air. These devices (specifically the Forensics Detectors FD-90A-PH3) have a long-life battery, large screen that displays the PH3 concentration, and a belt clip to connect to clothing. In order to protect users, these gas detectors also have LED, vibration, and buzzer alarms.
Phosphine gas detectors are also known as PH3 monitors, phosphine sniffers, phosphine analyzers, and phosphine gas testers. These names all refer to the same device, a PH3 gas detector.
What Does a Phosphine Meter Detect?
A phosphine detector senses phosphine (PH3) gas and displays the levels in parts per million (ppm).
The growth of phosphine detectors has increased due to more phosphine being used as a fumigant in response to the need to replace methyl bromide. Fruits such as kiwifruits and cured ham have also adopted phosphine to kill live pests.
What Is Phosphine Gas?
Phosphine has the chemical symbol PH3. It is a very useful yet dangerous gas, hence the need to monitor and check air concentrations.
Is Phosphine Toxic?
Yes it is.
When exposed to phosphine gas, you may experience nausea, fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, respiratory illness, cardiac failure, and even death. Avoiding phosphine gas exposure is essential to protect your family and coworkers.
In 2011, a family of six (including two children) was unintentionally exposed to toxic phosphine gas after a fumigation. With no known antidote, the two children unfortunately passed away from heart failure.
What Should I Do If I've Been Exposed to Phosphine Gas?
As of now, there are no known antidotes for phosphine toxicity. If you suspect that you have been exposed to phosphine, it is important to evacuate to an outdoor environment with no traces of PH3 exposure. Seek medical attention immediately. Medical professionals can help manage symptoms such as reduced respiratory or heart function.
Preventing exposure is important for safety and can be achieved with a PH3 gas detector.
Can I Smell Phosphine Gas?
Yes, humans can smell phosphine gas. It is described to have a fishy or garlicky smell that varies with its concentration.
The phosphine odor threshold is between 0.1 and 2 ppm. See here.
However, it is a bad idea to rely on your sense of smell to determine the "concentration" of an aromatic gas like PH3. Over time, the nose becomes desensitized to the odor - this phenomena is called olfactory fatigue.
What Are the Different Types of Phosphine Gas Detectors?
Phosphine Detector for Personal Protection
The majority of phosphine gas detectors are portable. These are small, battery-powered units with a phosphine sensor that can be clipped onto your clothes for personal protection.
|Phosphine Detector & Pump Probe for Inspection, Silos and Tanks
These units have a built in pump and are an excellent option to confirm PH3 gas has reached your desired concentration for effective fumigation. A pump and probe allows one to stand (external to a tank) in fresh air while sampling for example the silo headspace.
|Phosphine Gas Monitor for Stationary Fixed Wall
Wall-mounted units provide continuous protection and warning of phosphine gas leaks. These devices are perfect for indoor uses. If the levels pass the preset threshold (i.e., 0.3 ppm OSHA TWA), the unit will provide an LED and buzzer warning.
How Does a Phosphine Gas Sensor Work?
An phosphine gas detector is composed of electronics and a PH3 sensor. The gas sensor converts the detected gas concentration to an electronic signal for analysis by the onboard microprocessor. After receiving the electrical signal, the processor displays the PH3 concentration reading. If the measurement exceeds the pre-set alarm value, the alarms are triggered.
The gas reacts with a working electrode, triggering an electrochemical redox reaction. The generated current is proportional to the detected gas level.
What Are Safe Phosphine Gas Levels?
Various government agencies have recommended gas exposure limits, examples can be seen below:
Recommendation / Requirement
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL):
0.3 ppm, 10-hour TWA
1 ppm, 10-minute ceiling
Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)
0.3 ppm average over 8 hours
1 ppm average over 15 minutes (Permissible Exposure Limit)
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
0.3 ppm average over 8 hours
1 ppm STEL
What Is a Phosphine Gas Detector Used For?
Phosphine gas is used in a variety of manufacturing and industrial processes, as listed below. Because PH3 is toxic, it is important to monitor for employee and homeowner safety.
- PH3 for fumigation: Phosphine is used to control pests, such as insects and rodents, in indoor environments. Stored grains, animal feed, and tobacco can be fumigated with phosphine gas to protect from pests. Proper equipment and employee training is essential to protect human health.
- PH3 for textile synthesis: Reacting with formaldehyde and HCl, phosphine can be used to create fire retardant fabric.
- PH3 for electronic manufacturing (semiconductors): Phosphine is used widely within the electronic industry. High quality phosphine is essential in the production of LED lights, solar cells, and as a dopant for semiconductors. The phosphine gas is introduced to silicon wafers to produce conductive semiconductors.
Can Phosphine Gas Contaminate Food or Water?
No, phosphine cannot contaminate food or water. PH3 breaks down when it comes into contact with water. As a gas, it is very unlikely that it will contaminate any agricultural crops.
Phosphine is most dangerous when inhaled as a gas.
How Do I Select a Phosphine Detector?
To select the best phosphine gas detector, follow this simple guide:
- What do I need it for?
- Personal Protection?
- Measuring PH3 levels in silos?
- Continuous Room Monitoring?
- Do I need advanced functions such as data-logging or Bluetooth?
- Do I need specific accreditations with the monitor such as ATEX or a NIST traceability calibration certificate?
- Do I require any features such as a belt clip?
- Do I value USA support or fast calibration services?
How Long Does a Phosphine Sensor Last For?
Phosphine detectors incorporate electrochemical sensors that last between 24 and 36 months.
How Do I Test My Phosphine Detector?
The best way to test your phosphine gas detector is to expose it to a known phosphine gas source. Bump testing is a good practice to perform daily. Frequent testing is especially important in personal protection applications where safety is paramount.
What Is a Phosphine Detector Bump Test?
- Bump testing is a procedure where the user exposes the PH3 detector to a “blast” gas. The gas triggers a bump to the detector to ensure the detector operates and alarms as programmed.
- The function of this test is to verify proper operation and build user confidence, particularly in hazardous applications.
- It is recommended to bump test when first purchased, with subsequent testing every week. If using in LIFE-THREATENING and / or DANGEROUS applications, bump test daily.
- Phosphine bump test gas can be found here.
What Is Phosphine Detector Gas Calibration?
Phosphine gas detector calibration is the technical task of adjusting the detector to a more accurate gas reading. Over time, the sensors on the device will degrade or produce drifting readings. We suggest calibrating your PH3 detector every 6 to 12 months, the typical time period for gas detectors.
Gas calibration is a technical task that requires certain key pieces of equipment. These include a calibration gas bottle, gas regulator, tubing, and calibration cap fitting. You need to communicate with the manufacturer to determine the recommended calibration gas concentrations and mixtures. For the Forensics Detectors PH3 gas monitors, we recommend the calibration gas here.
Be attentive and calibrate daily if:
- The user employs the device as an analytical tool where accuracy is paramount.
- The device is used in an extreme environment (temp and humidity extremes create sensor drift).
- The user is performing an imminently dangerous application.
- Bump testing fails. In this case, you must calibrate to make sure the sensors and monitor operate properly.
- The PH3 gas detector alarms in the fresh air. This could mean that the sensor has drifted past an alarm set-point.
Calibration and bump testing are mandatory because injury or death can occur if the device fails. Take it very seriously.
Also, it is prudent to have a calibration schedule that the owner or employees strictly follow. See gas calibration here.
How Do I Take Care of My Phosphine Gas Sensor?
- Store your PH3 gas detector at a normal room temperature.
- Store it away from electromagnetic interference sources such as phones.
- Store it in a clean environment.
- Store away from any exhaust gas, concentrated vapors, and harsh chemicals.
- Clean the detector with a damp cloth.
- Store it in a stable place where there are no vibrations occur.
How Do I Properly Use a PH3 Gas Detector?
When operating a PH3 gas detector, there are some important tips to consider.
- Read your product manual, or watch any support videos.
- Turn ON the PH3 gas monitor in the fresh air.
- Ensure the PH3 gas monitor is within its calibration period.
- Ensure the monitor has been bump tested and validated as operational.
- Check the alarm set-points. Set your alarms as desired (some units may not have adjustable alarms).
- If performing analytical measurements, keep the unit stationary. Ensure humidity and temperature are also tracked and are as constant as possible.
Is Phosphine Gas Explosive?
Yes it is.
Phosphine is flammable at concentrations above 1.8% in air.
Therefore, PH3 gas has a lower explosive limit (LEL) of 1.8% - this means it is too lean to burn.
The upper explosive limit (UEL) of PH3 is considered to be close to 100%. Due to phosphine's ability to auto ignite in air, the upper explosive limit could not be determined experimentally.
- Phosphine is important in our modern day life. It is extremely important for electronic production, fumigation, and textile manufacturing.
- PH3 gas detectors can be used for personal protection in hazardous gas environments when sterilizing.
- PH3 gas leak detectors are useful to determine any PH3 gas leaks in fumigated areas and manufacturing facilities
- PH3 gas detectors are affordable, costing less than $350 per unit.
About The Author
Dr. Kos Galatsis ("Dr.Koz") is the President of FORENSICS DETECTORS, where the company operates from the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, California. He is a subject matter expert on gas sensor technology, gas detectors, gas meters, and gas analyzers. He has been designing, building, manufacturing, and testing toxic gas detection systems for over 20 years.
Every day is a blessing for Dr. Koz. He loves to help customers solve their unique problems. Dr. Koz also loves spending time with his wife and his three children going to the beach, grilling burgers, and having a cold beer.
Read more about Forensics Detectors here.