Title:
Material Containment System
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Containment packages (10) having utility for transport of hazardous gases and security systems for controlling access to packages, e.g., hazardous gas containment packages (20). In a specific implementation, a containment package includes an overpack (11) for improving the safety and security of gas-containment vessels during transportation, e.g., air shipment, in which the overpack is pressurized by a protective gas at pressure in excess of the pressure in the gas-containment vessels, and a global positioning system (GPS) coordinated programmable lock and key system (30) is integrated with the containment package for controlled access to the gas-containment vessels only when the GPS component indicates that the containment package is at a specific geographic location.



Inventors:
Mcmanus, James V. (Bethel, CT, US)
Sameth, Jerrold David (Clifton, NJ, US)
Dimeo, Frank (Falls Church, VA, US)
Application Number:
12/064625
Publication Date:
10/09/2008
Filing Date:
08/22/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
141/51, 206/1.5, 206/459.5, 220/214, 220/320, 220/592.2, 340/572.9, 340/588
International Classes:
B65B3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GEHMAN, BRYON P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hultquist IP (P.O. Box 14329, RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, 27709, US)
Claims:
1. 1.-70. (canceled)

71. A container package useful for transport of fluid storage and dispensing vessel(s), comprising an overpack defining an interior volume adapted for holding at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel in an environment of containment gas in the interior volume of the overpack at pressure that is above pressure of fluid contained in the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel, wherein the overpack includes at least one of: (i) an anti-tamper system adapted to restrict access to the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel therein; (ii) a thermal management system for maintaining the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel at temperature within a predetermined temperature range; and (iii) a tracking system adapted for communication with a communication system.

72. The container package of claim 71, including said anti-tamper system in a configuration selected from the group consisting of: (a) the anti-tamper system comprising a programmable electromechanical lock and key system; (b) (a), and a GPS system adapted to selectively actuate the programmable electromechanical lock and key system; and (c) (a), (b), and an electronic key that is operable to unlock the programmable electromechanical lock when the GPS system indicates that the container package is at a predetermined location or within predetermined geographic coordinates.

73. The container package of claim 71, including a thermal management system comprising a phase change gel pack arranged to maintain temperature in said interior volume in a predetermined range during variable environmental temperature conditions.

74. The container package of claim 71, wherein the overpack includes a pressurizing port adapted for introduction of pressurizing gas into the interior volume, to establish pressure therein that is above pressure of fluid contained in the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel, and a pressure monitor adapted to monitor pressure in the interior volume.

75. The container package of claim 71, including at least one feature selected from the group consisting of: (1) a positional fixation structure in the interior volume, adapted to positionally retain the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel in a fixed position in the interior volume; (2) a pressure monitor; (3) a pressure monitor comprising an analog pressure gauge; (4) a pressure monitor comprising a pressure transducer; (5) a thermal management device or structure in said overpack; (6) a thermal controller adapted to maintain a predetermined temperature level of fluid in said at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel; (7) active heating and cooling componentry; (8) thermal insulation in said interior volume; (9) dunnage in said interior volume; (10) foam material in said interior volume defining at least one cavity for retention of the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel; (11) a time-temperature monitoring system adapted to provide a record of temperature in the interior volume over a predetermined period of time; (12) temperature control and monitoring capability; (13) a leak detector adapted to monitor gas leaks into or within the overpack; (14) a gas-specific detector; (15) a port in said overpack, having a gas-specific sensor disposed therein; (16) a gas-specific sensor providing a visual output indicative of occurrence of leak; (17) an adsorbent material in said interior volume, adapted to take up or immobilize leaking gas therein; (18) a physical adsorbent in said interior volume; (19) a chemisorbent in said interior volume; (20) a heater; (21) a cooler; (22) a pressure relief device; (23) a shock absorber; (24) a shock sensor; (25) a tracking device; (26) an RFID tracking device; (27) a global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking device; (28) scannable identification indicia; and (29) detectable identification indicia.

76. The container package of claim 71, containing at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel.

77. The container package of claim 76, having at least one characteristic selected from the group consisting of: (1) subatmospheric pressure in at least one of said at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel; (2) containment gas pressure in said interior volume above ambient pressure exterior to the container package; (3) leak-tight sealing of the overpack against an exterior environment thereof; (4) containment gas in said interior volume comprising inert gas; (5) each of the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel including a valve head comprising a valve wheel that is protectively secured by a tensioned strap secured to the valve wheel; (6) each of the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel including a valve head that is protectively secured by a valve cap; (7) each of the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel including a valve head protectively secured by shrinkwrapping thereof; (8) each of the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel being wrapped in shrinkwrapping material; (9) the enclosure being adapted to hold from 6 to 24 fluid storage and dispensing vessels; (10) each of the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel having a fluid storage volume in a range of from 0.4 L to 6.6 L; (11) the interior volume being constructed to hold a number of fluid storage and dispensing vessels, wherein said number is selected from the group consisting of 6, 12 and 24.

78. The container package of claim 76, wherein the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel contains a semiconductor manufacturing fluid.

79. The container package of claim 76, wherein the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel contains fluid selected from the group consisting of boron trifluoride, arsine, phosphine, silicon tetrafluoride, germanium tetrafluoride, arsenic pentafluoride, phosphorus trifluoride, hydrogen selenide, diborane, decaborane, and silane.

80. The container package of claim 76, wherein the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel holds gas adsorbed on a carbon adsorbent, at sub-atmospheric pressure.

81. A gas management method, comprising use of a container package as claimed in claim 71, involving at least one activity selected from the group consisting of: (1) introducing at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel into the interior volume of the overpack; (2) transporting said container package containing at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel in the interior volume of the overpack; (3) tracking said container package containing at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel in the interior volume of the overpack, during transport thereof; (4) maintaining said overpack in a locked and tamper-resistant mode during transport thereof; (5) remotely opening a previously locked overpack of said container package at a predetermined location or under predetermined conditions; (6) maintaining said overpack interior volume containing at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel at temperature in a predetermined temperature range, during storage or transport thereof; (7) utilizing said container package in a supply chain.

82. The method of claim 81, wherein the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel contains a semiconductor manufacturing gas.

83. The method of claim 81, wherein the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel contains a fluid selected from the group consisting of boron trifluoride, arsine, phosphine, silicon tetrafluoride, germanium tetrafluoride, arsenic pentafluoride, phosphorus trifluoride, hydrogen selenide, diborane and decaborane.

84. The method of claim 81, wherein the overpack comprises a communication capability enabling trackability of the container package.

85. A supply chain management system, comprising (a) a communication system comprising at least one system selected from the group consisting of (1) active RFID systems, (2) GPS communication systems, (3) global digital communications networks and (4) cellular telephony communication systems; and (b) a container package adapted for transport of fluid storage and dispensing vessel(s), comprising an overpack defining an interior volume adapted for holding at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel in an environment of containment gas at pressure that is above pressure of fluid contained in the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel, wherein the container package is adapted to communicate with said communication system.

86. The supply chain management system of claim 85, wherein the system is adapted to track the location of the container package.

87. The supply chain management system of claim 85, wherein the overpack includes at least one of (a) an anti-tamper device adapted to restrict access to the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel therein, and (b) a thermal management capability, for maintaining temperature of said at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel within a predetermined range.

88. The supply chain management system of claim 85, wherein the system is adapted for integration with an inventory and warehouse control system.

89. The supply chain management system of claim 85, wherein the container package comprises an alerting capability for notification via the communication system that the container package has been compromised.

90. The supply chain management system of claim 85, wherein at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel is contained in said container package, and contains a fluid.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to materials containment packages for storing and/or transporting materials and also relates to security systems for controlling access to and operation of materials sources. More specifically, the invention relates to an overpack for improving the safety and security of materials-containment vessels during transportation, e.g., air shipment, and a programmable lock and key system suitable for use with such overpack or with other packages containing hazardous or sensitive materials or information.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART

U.S. Pat. No. 5,518,528 issued May 21, 1996 to Glenn M. Tom, et al. describes an adsorbent-based fluid storage and delivery system useful in the supply of gas for semiconductor manufacturing operations, e.g., ion implantation. In such system, fluid is sorptively retained on an adsorbent medium of suitable adsorptive affinity for such fluid, in a fluid storage and dispensing vessel. The adsorbent medium can for example include a particulate carbon medium having nano-scale pores, in which the fluid is stored. In use, fluid is desorbed from the adsorbent medium under dispensing conditions. The fluid storage and dispensing vessel can for example be a metal cylinder, and dispensing conditions can involve thermally-assisted desorption of the fluid from the adsorbent medium, pressure-differential-based desorption of the fluid from the adsorbent medium, and/or concentration gradient-based desorption of the fluid from the adsorbent medium (e.g., by passage of a carrier gas through the vessel for contact with the adsorbent medium having fluid adsorbed thereon, to entrain the desorbed fluid in the carrier gas stream).

Adsorbent-based fluid storage and dispensing systems of the type described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,518,528, U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,965, U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,967 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,707,424 have been commercialized by ATMI, Inc. (Danbury, Conn.) under the trademarks SDS and SAGE. Such systems permit gas to be stored in an adsorbed state at sub-atmospheric pressure for subsequent desorption and dispensing, thereby substantially enhancing the safety of gas storage as compared to conventional high-pressure gas containment compressed gas cylinders.

Although the SDS and SAGE gas packages have been widely commercialized in the semiconductor manufacturing industry, as a proven safe alternative to use of compressed gas sources, the commercial implementation of such sub-atmospheric pressure gas packages has been impeded by shipment regulations that were originally promulgated for conventional high-pressure gas cylinders. The regulations reflect the significant hazards attendant the rupture of or leakage from such high-pressure cylinders when hazardous gases, e.g., arsine, phosphine, and boron trifluoride, are involved.

For example, in the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations in CFR 49 172.101 (8) prohibits cylinders containing arsine, phosphine and boron trifluoride from being transported by air. As a result, all SDS and SAGE gas cylinders, even though they contain these gases at sub-atmospheric pressure, must be transported by non-air transport modes.

Accordingly, when SDS or SAGE gas cylinders are shipped internationally, they must be transported by ocean freight. Transportation by ocean cargo vessels from the United States to Europe or Asia increases the length of the supply chain by 20-40 days, in relation to air transport. The resulting increase in the length of the supply chain requires corresponding increases in required inventories and cylinder fleet sizes, increases the likelihood of imbalances between the gas package supply and dynamically changing gas demand, and results in lower order fulfillment rates (in consequence of stock outages of the packaged gas).

By contrast, air shipment cycle times between the United States and Europe or Asia are on the order of 7 days or less.

Supply chain economics therefore greatly favor air transport over other modes of shipment of packaged gases. Other factors favoring air transportation over oceanic or other modes of transport include: (i) improvement in security of gas packages as a result of reduced time in the transportation pipeline and corresponding reduction in opportunities for tampering or hijacking of shipments of gas cylinders of toxic or otherwise hazardous gases; (ii) reduced risk of damage to the gas product as a result of reduced time of exposure to in-transit environmental conditions such as moisture, vibration, water and extremes of heat and cold; and (iii) the availability of better shipment tracking capabilities from air carriers than are provided by ocean freight companies or other non-air common carriers.

In sum, current transportation regulations prohibiting air shipment of hazardous gases such as arsine, phosphine and boron trifluoride were established as a result of safety concerns associated with high pressure toxic gases. Even though the adsorbent-based gas packages described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,518,528 and commercialized under the trademarks SDS and SAGE afford a high level of safety of the packaged gas (by packaging such gas at pressures below 0 psig), it nonetheless it is necessary to achieve an even higher level of safety to satisfy regulatory concerns applicable to the air transport of hazardous gas packages.

It therefore would be a significant advance the art to provide an improved gas package for secure containment of hazardous gases such as arsine, phosphine and boron trifluoride, which satisfies regulatory concerns associated with air transport of the hazardous gases.

A related issue involving safety and security concerns when toxic or hazardous materials are transported, regardless of the specific mode of transport, is the issue of providing selective access to the shipped gas container, so that only appropriate persons have access to such toxic or hazardous materials during their shipment, and reliably tracking such access during travel of the toxic or hazardous material to its ultimate destination.

As the world continues to cope with security concerns, it is particularly important that numerous high technology and advanced materials, decaborane being but one example, not fall into the hands of individuals with destructive intentions. Concurrently, with ever-growing needs for increasing the speed of technical development, more stringent commercial requirements for delivery of supplies of raw materials at globally distant manufacturing locations, and continual shrinkage of the time-frames for global supply chains, it is vitally important to ship materials quickly, efficiently and economically in a manner enabling tracking to ensure that the material remains in a non-tampered state and is at the appropriate place in the supply chain at the required time.

Although a variety of “tamper-proof” technologies has been developed, including tapes, single-use locks, and indicator devices that reveal whether or not a package has been opened, these approaches do not provide a log of when and where the package has been opened or otherwise inspected. This is a major deficiency, since anti-terrorism measures are increasing in scope and frequency, and inspections and contents verification of packages by customs agents, police, military and other government and commercial personnel are becoming routine at airports and many other transshipment points in the world.

It therefore would be a significant advance in the art to provide a containment package for hazardous or otherwise sensitive material, which is of a tamper-proof character, and provides a tracking capability and an indication of when and where the containment package has been opened or otherwise accessed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to containment packages having utility for storage and/or transport of materials, preferably hazardous materials, more preferably hazardous fluids such as gas or liquid, most preferably a gas, and to security systems useful for controlling the transport and/or access to packages such as hazardous gas containment packages.

The invention relates in one aspect to a container package adapted for transport of at least one vessel containing at least one material, preferably a hazardous material, more preferably a hazardous fluid such as gas or liquid or the like, the container package including an overpack enclosing an interior volume and adapted for leak-tight sealing of the interior volume against an exterior environment of the container package, the interior volume being adapted to hold the at least one vessel therein, the overpack including a monitoring system for monitoring at least one of, pressure, temperature, chemical leak, chemical exposure, radiation exposure and/or shock. Preferably, the material within the vessel is at sub atmospheric pressure. The materials contained in the vessel preferably include compounds, compositions or precursors for use in ion implantation, CVD, ALD, etching or cleans operations.

The invention relates in one aspect to a container package adapted for transport of at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel containing fluid at a first pressure, the container package including an overpack having an interior volume and adapted for leak-tight sealing of the interior volume against an exterior environment of the container package, the interior volume being adapted to hold the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel therein, the overpack including a pressurizing port adapted for introduction of pressurizing gas to the interior volume of the overpack to establish a second pressure in the interior volume above the first pressure, and, preferably, a pressure monitor adapted to monitor the second pressure. Preferably, the material within the vessel is at sub atmospheric pressure.

In another aspect, the invention relates to a programmable electromechanical lock and key system, including a programmable electromechanical lock and electronic key. The lock and key system may be programmable based on time (e.g., programmed to not be unlocked for 20 days if estimated transportation time is 20 days), location (e.g., programmed to only open at specified location(s)) and/or user (e.g., programmed to only be opened by designated individuals). Preferably, the lock and key system is GPS-controlled. Accordingly to one preferred embodiment, at least one lock is operatively coupled with a GPS system so that the programmable electromechanical lock is openable when the GPS system indicates that the programmable electromechanical lock and electronic key are both at a predetermined location or within predetermined geographic coordinates, and electronic key is actuated. Alternatively, the programmable lock or key system may be openable upon input of a code or insertion of a key.

Another aspect of the invention relates to the use of the programmable lock and key system on the vessel(s) rather than or in addition to the overpak containment system.

A further aspect of the invention relates to a restricted-access packaging system, including a package including an access structure, and a programmable electromechanical lock and key system, operably coupled to the access structure to selectively restrict access to the package. Preferably, the lock and key system is GPS-controlled.

Yet another aspect of the invention relates to a global supply-chain system, including a programmable lock and key and/or restricted-access packaging system of the foregoing type and a supply-chain database or computer system.

A still further aspect of the events relates to a global supply-chain system, including a container package adapted for transport of at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel containing fluid at a first pressure, the container package including an overpack having an interior volume and adapted for leak-tight sealing of the interior volume against an exterior environment of the container package, the interior volume being adapted to hold the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel therein, the overpack including a pressurizing port adapted for introduction of pressurizing gas to the interior volume of the overpack to establish a second pressure in the interior volume above the first pressure, and a pressure monitor adapted to monitor the second pressure, and transport capability for shipment of the container package from a first location to a second location. Preferably, the material within the vessel is at sub atmospheric pressure

In another aspect, the invention relates to a materials transport system for shipment of a material, preferably a hazardous material, more preferably a fluid such as gas or liquid, most preferably gas, from a first location to a second location, the materials transport system including a containment package including an overpack for holding one or more vessels containing the hazardous material during transportation thereof from the first location to the second location, and a global positioning system (GPS) coordinated programmable lock and key system operably coupled with the containment package for locking thereof to prevent access to the one or more vessels in the overpack, and adapted to unlock the containment package at one or more locations during the transportation thereof.

In another aspect, the invention relates to a materials transport system for shipment of a hazardous gas from a first location to a second location, the materials transport system including a containment package including an overpack for holding one or more vessels containing the hazardous gas during transportation thereof from the first location to the second location, and a global positioning system (GPS) coordinated programmable lock and key system operably coupled with the containment package for locking thereof to prevent access to the one or more vessels in the overpack, and adapted to unlock the containment package at one or more locations during the transportation thereof.

Additionally, the GPS system could be further integrated with active RFID technology that would enable a global inventory control tracking and management system. For example active RFID technology combined with GPS or cell phone communications, would permit tracking and monitoring of overpacks containing hazardous materials as they move anywhere through the supply chain. Stationary overpacks may also be tracked and monitored as well. Other capabilities of the GPS/RFID system would include alerting a supply chain manager or authorities in the event of an undesirable event during transportation and/or storage such as tampering, mishandling or outright theft of the overpacks and/or the vessel within the overpaks.

A still further aspect of the invention relates to an overpack including an enclosure defining an interior volume adapted for holding at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel in an environment of containment gas, wherein the containment gas in the interior volume of the overpack is at a pressure that is above the pressure level of a fluid contained in the at least one fluid storage and dispensing vessel. Preferably, the material within the vessel is at subatmospheric pressure.

In another aspect, the invention relates to a method of manufacturing a product, preferably semiconductor product, using a material, preferably a hazardous material, more preferably a hazardous fluid such as gas or liquid, most preferably gas, for its manufacture, the method including supplying the material from a material storage and dispensing vessel transported by a container package as described hereinabove and using such material in a semiconductor manufacturing operation to form the product. Preferably, the semiconductor manufacturing operation is a CVD process or implant process or ALD or cleans operation. According to one embodiment, the container package includes aGPS-controlled programmable electromechanical lock and key system as described hereinabove. Accordingly to another embodiment, the container package includes a restricted access packaging system as previously described. According to a further embodiment, the container package includes or is adapted for use with a global supply-chain system as described hereinabove.

Additional aspects of the invention relate to various methods, including: a method of manufacturing a semiconductor product requiring a material, preferably a hazardous material, more preferably a hazardous fluid such as gas or liquid, most preferably gas, for its manufacture, including supplying the material, preferably a fluid, from an overpack; a method for supplying a material, preferably a fluid, including filling a material storage and dispensing vessel with the material, preferably a fluid, and installing the material storage and dispensing vessel in a container package; a method for supplying a material, preferably a fluid, including filling a material, preferably a fluid storage and dispensing vessel for installation in a container package; a method of supplying a material, preferably a fluid, including introducing the material into an overpack; a method of supplying a material, preferably a fluid, including introducing the material into a container package; a method of supplying a material, preferably a fluid for semiconductor manufacture, including transporting the material in a global supply chain system, transporting the material, preferably a fluid in a global supply chain system, and/or transporting the material, preferably a fluid in a materials transport system; a method of supplying a material, preferably a fluid for semiconductor manufacture, including transporting the material, preferably a fluid in a materials transport system; a method of supplying a material, preferably a fluid for semiconductor manufacture, including transporting the material, preferably a fluid in an overpack; a method of securing a material or article, including packaging same in a package secured with a GPS-controlled programmable electromechanical lock and key system; a method of securing a material or article, including use of a GPS-controlled programmable electromechanical lock and key system; a method of enhancing safety of a material, preferably a fluid during transport thereof, the method including use of a container package; a method of enhancing safety of a fluid during transport thereof, the method including use of a GPS-controlled programmable electromechanical lock and key system; and a method of enhancing safety of a material, preferably a fluid during transport thereof, the method including packaging the material, preferably a fluid in an overpack.

Other aspects, features and embodiments of the invention will be more fully apparent from the ensuing disclosure and appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container package according to one embodiment of the present invention including an overpack having an array of gas-containing vessels therein.

FIG. 2 is a perspective exterior view of the container package of FIG. 1

FIG. 3 is a perspective view, in cross-section, of the container package of FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 4 is a perspective sectional view of a portion of the upper left hand portion of the container package shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a perspective sectional view of a portion of the upper right hand portion of the container package shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the lid of the container package of FIGS. 1-5, showing the details of the construction thereof.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the lid of the container package of FIGS. 1-6.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view, in elevational cross-section, of a portion of the lid shown in the preceding drawings, as depicted with an associated pressure gauge in the first port at the right-band side of the lid, and a valve mounted on a fitting in the second port on the left-hand side of the lid, in the view shown.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION, AND PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS THEREOF

The present invention relates to containment packages having utility for the storage and/or transport of materials, preferably hazardous materials, more preferably liquids and/or gases, most preferably gases, and to security systems for controlling access to packages, e.g., hazardous gas containment packages.

As used herein the term “hazardous materials” is defined as including any material identified in 49 CFR-172.101 Hazardous Materials Table and sanctioned by Hazardous Materials Regulations.

In one specific aspect, the invention relates to a containment package, including an overpack for improving the safety and security of gas-containment vessels during transportation, e.g., air shipment, and a global positioning system (GPS) coordinated programmable lock and key system suitable for use with a package such as container packages for hazardous gases.

The vessels described herein can be any container for materials. Preferably, the vessel comprise a subatmospheric vessel such as those described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,518,528; U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,965; U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,967; U.S. Pat. No. 5,935,305; U.S. Pat. No. 6,406,519; U.S. Pat. No. 6,204,180; U.S. Pat. No. 5,837,027; U.S. Pat. No. 6,743,278; U.S. Pat. No. 6,089,027; U.S. Pat. No. 6,101,816; U.S. Pat. No. 6,343,476; U.S. Pat. No. 6,660,063; U.S. Pat. No. 6,592,653; U.S. Pat. No. 6,132,492; U.S. Pat. No. 5,851,270; U.S. Pat. No. 5,916,245; U.S. Pat. No. 5,761,910; U.S. Pat. No. 6,083,298; U.S. Pat. No. 6,592,653; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,707,424, hereby incorporated herein by reference, in their respective entireties. Preferred vessels includes SDS® and VAC® delivery vessels (ATMI, Inc.).

Although described herein primarily in application to fluid storage and dispensing apparatus of the type disclosed in the aforementioned Tom, et al. patent, wherein a solid-phase physical adsorbent medium is employed for sorptively retaining gas for storage and subsequent dispensing of gas under desorption dispensing conditions, the utility of the invention is not thus limited. Contrariwise, the invention contemplates a wide variety of other types of fluid storage and dispensing apparatus, including fluid storage and dispensing apparatus in which other types of sorbent media are employed to store a fluid for subsequent disengagement of the fluid from the sorbent medium under dispensing conditions.

In such respect, the sorbent medium may include a solvent, liquid, semi-solid, or other material having capability as a storage medium. For example, the fluid storage medium may be a reversible reactive liquid medium, e.g., an ionic liquid medium, capable of reactive uptake of fluid in a first step, and reactive release of previously taken up fluid in a second step, wherein the first and second steps are reverse reactions in relation to one another, and define a reversible reaction scheme. According to another embodiment, the vessel uses a liquid absorbent, such as those disclosed in US Patent Publication No. 20040206241, hereby incorporated by reference.

According to yet another embodiment, the vessel is a solids delivery vessel (e.g., ProEVap™ system) such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,921,062, U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/662,515, or US Patent Publication No. 20050039794, hereby incorporated by reference.

The containment package of the present invention enables an enhanced level of safety to be achieved in the transport of fluids, and in application to sub-atmospheric fluid sources such as the aforementioned SDS and SAGE adsorbent-based fluid storage and dispensing apparatus, provides a safety level that is appropriate for air transport of the (sub-atmospheric) fluid.

The containment package of the invention in a specific embodiment includes an overpack for a fluid storage and dispensing vessel, e.g., an adsorbent-based gas storage and dispensing vessel of the general type described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,518,528, U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,965, U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,967 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,707,424 as commercially available from ATMI, Inc. (Danbury, Conn.) under the trademarks SDS and SAGE. The overpack preferably includes an enclosure for the fluid storage and dispensing vessel, in which the enclosure defines an interior volume adapted for holding the fluid storage and dispensing vessel in an environment of containment gas. The containment gas in the interior volume of the overpack is at a pressure that is above the pressure level of the fluid contained in the fluid storage and dispensing vessel. In a preferred embodiment, the pressure of the containment gas is above ambient pressure exterior to the overpack. The containment gas preferably is inert, i.e., a gas that is non-reactive in exposure to the fluid storage and dispensing vessel and its contents.

The positive pressure of the containment gas in the overpack in relation to the fluid in the vessel held in the overpack ensures that in the event the vessel in the overpack develops a leak, the resulting initial movement of gas will be into the vessel, and not out of the vessel into the overpack. In addition, the use of an inert gas as the containment gas in the interior volume of the overpack helps to minimize the risk of deleterious effects such as corrosion and fire in the event of leakage of gas from the vessel into the surrounding interior volume in the overpack. This is highly advantageous when highly corrosive or pyrophoric gases such silane and boron trifluoride are to be transported in a fluid storage and dispensing vessel that is held in the overpack.

The overpack in one preferred embodiment is equipped with a pressure monitor, e.g., an analog or alternatively a digital pressure gauge. The functions served by the pressure monitor may include one or more or all of the following: (i) monitoring and control of the pressurization of the overpack during charging with the containment gas; (ii) leak indication in the event that the integrity of the overpack is compromised, e.g., by puncturing or other occurrence impairing the leak-tightness of the overpack; (iii) detection of a leak in the fluid storage and dispensing vessel held in the interior volume of the overpack, involving loss of internal pressure in the interior volume of the overpack as containment gas flows from the interior volume of the overpack into the fluid storage and dispensing vessel held therein; and (iv) verification of tampering involving loss of pressure of the containment gas if the structural integrity of the overpack has compromised by intentional activity impairing the leak-tightness of the overpack against the external environment.

The overpack in another embodiment is adapted for thermal management of the gas package including the overpack and a fluid storage and dispensing vessel contained therein. During transportation, the overpack can be exposed to a wide range of temperatures, e.g., temperatures in a range of from −40° to 150° F. To accommodate such temperature variability, the overpack can be equipped with a thermal controller, to control temperature of the fluid storage and dispensing vessel or otherwise damp the effects of temperature variation.

The thermal controller can be variously constituted, and in specific embodiments can include active heating and cooling componentry, and/or thermal insulation of the overpack. For example, the overpack can include dunnage in the interior volume whose function is to positionally fix and stabilize a gas cylinder therein. Such dunnage can be fabricated of a low thermal conductivity material, e.g., a high quality insulative material, to dampen thermal swings during transportation, and thereby minimize adverse effects on the gas in the cylinder held in the interior volume of the overpack.

The thermal controller may additionally, or alternatively, include devices or structure for heat addition and removal. For example, a phase change gel pack may be incorporated in the overpack, including a material capable of phase change in a temperature range of interest, so that temperature changes that deviate from the phase change temperature of the material in the gel pack will prompt either a solidification that releases heat or a liquefaction that adsorbs heat from the surrounding environment, depending on the direction of the temperature deviation. By such expedient, temperature of the cylinder in the overpack can be maintained in a predetermined range during its transport.

Such thermal control is highly advantageous in the application of the overpack to containment of adsorbent-based fluid storage and dispensing vessels, since internal pressure in such adsorbent-based vessels is a function of temperature, and pressure determines the level of safety that is achieved by the gas package, i.e., the lower the pressure in the adsorbent-based fluid storage and dispensing vessel, the lower the likelihood that a leak will occur.

By way of specific example, in an SDS or SAGE cylinder, pressure typically increases by 0.25 psi for each degree of increase in temperature. At 70° F., pressure in a gas-filled SDS or SAGE cylinder is typically less than 1 atmosphere, however at 80° F., the pressure in the vessel can be greater than 1 atmosphere, and a leak in the cylinder would result in egress of gas from the cylinder to the surrounding ambient pressure environment.

In another embodiment, the thermal monitor includes a time-temperature monitoring system, e.g., a system such as the 3M™ MonitorMark™ time-temperature monitoring system commercially available from 3M Co., Minneapolis, Minn., to provide assurance that the cylinder in the overpack is maintained at a required temperature during transportation.

Temperature control and monitoring capability associated with the overpack is especially important in application to gas storage and delivery systems that are based on liquid adsorption or complexation. For example, gas adsorbed into a liquid such as tetraglyme or an ionic liquid may become less soluble as a function of increasing temperature, so that increasing temperature increases the pressure within the cylinder and reduces the safety of the gas containment. By the provision of temperature control and monitoring capability associated with the overpack, such liquid-based gas storage and dispensing systems can be transported in a highly safe and effective manner, commensurate with the requirements of gas containment for air shipping applications.

In other embodiments of the invention, the safe character of the overpack is enhanced by the provision of passive elements for monitoring and abating gas leaks within the overpack. In order to detect a leak within the overpack, a gas-specific detector can be deployed, such as a gas-specific sensor disposed in a port of the overpack and providing a visual indication to a viewer that a leak has occurred. Additionally, or alternatively, dunnage or inner packing in the interior volume of the overpack can be employed, which incorporates an adsorbent medium that would take up and immobilize any leaking gas from the cylinder inside the overpack. Such adsorbent medium may include a physical absorbent medium, or alternatively, or additionally, include a chemisorbent medium.

The overpack itself may be formed in any suitable manner to provide the enclosure housing with an appropriate shape, structure and/or configuration for leak-tight containment of the fluid storage and dispensing vessel. In one embodiment, the overpack includes a steel drum defining an enclosure housing for the fluid storage and dispensing vessel. Other containers of greater size than the fluid storage and dispensing vessel may be employed, and the overpack can be of a size and volumetric capacity adapted for containing a multiplicity of fluid storage and dispensing vessels therein.

The overpack enclosure may be formed of any of a wide variety of suitable materials of construction, and may be formed as a unitary enclosure or as an assembly of enclosure-forming structural members. The overpack can employ any of a wide variety of suitable sealing arrangements, including, without limitation, gasket seals, bolted flanges, threaded screws, crimped caps, swages, press fit structures, heat seals, etc. Potentially suitable materials of construction include, without limitation, metals, plastics/polymers, wood, glass, fiberglass, ceramics, composite materials, and the like.

The overpack assembly can include various accessories and ancillary features, including, without limitation, thermal insulators, heaters, coolers, pressure relief devices, valves, pressure gauges and transducers, internal chemical adsorbents/scrubbers, fire extinguishers, temperature monitors and indicators, shock absorbers, shock sensors, and tracking devices, e.g., radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs), global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking devices, barcodes and other scannable or detectible identification indicia, etc.

The fluids that can be contained in and dispensed from the fluid storage and dispensing vessel can be of any suitable type. In one embodiment, the fluid in the fluid storage and dispensing vessel is a semiconductor manufacturing fluid, such as, for example, boron trifluoride, arsine, phosphine, silicon tetrafluoride, germanium tetrafluoride, arsenic pentafluoride, phosphorus trifluoride, hydrogen selenide, diborane and decaborane.

In one embodiment, the gas package includes an overpack containing at least one gas storage and dispensing vessel holding gas adsorbed on nano-scale porous carbon, i.e., particles of carbon with pores having diameters of nanometer-scale dimensions, with the gas being stored at sub-atmospheric pressure. In such embodiment, the gas storage and dispensing vessel is contained in a pressurized steel overpack drum with a visible pressure gauge, enabling transportation personnel to quickly and safely check to the integrity of the gas package, by viewing the pressure gauge indication of the pressure in the overpack drum. The overpack is equipped with a foam inner lining that conforms to the shape of the gas storage and dispensing vessel that is contained in the overpack drum. The foam inner lining is formed of polypropylene, all gaskets of the overpack are formed of Viton elastomer, and the drum is coated on its interior as well as exterior surfaces with an epoxy phenolic primer.

The gas package is constructed so that the maximum pressure in any fully loaded cylinder installed in the overpack will be less than 0 psig at 21° C. (70° F.). In the valve head of the cylinder, the valve wheel is secured by a strap that provides tension in the tightening direction and a plug is placed in the valve in such valve head. A protective valve cap is used to protect the valve area of the cylinder valve head. The cylinder and valve area are shrink-wrapped before being placed in the overpack drum.

The filled gas cylinders are placed into the foam inner lining in the interior volume of the overpack drum to prevent movement of the cylinders. The drum then is pressurized to a pressure of about 3-5 psig with an inert gas such as nitrogen gas, and the pressure is clearly readable from outside the drum by viewing a recessed pressure gauge. The pressure gauge provides a readily visually verifiable check of the pressure to ensure that it is at an appropriate level. Transportation service personnel can then be instructed to reject or remove the package from transportation if the pressure indicated by the pressure gauge drops below a predetermined value.

The number of cylinders per overpack drum in this illustrative embodiment is between 6 and 24, depending on the relative sizes of the cylinders and the overpack drum, with the amount of gas in the cylinders being dependent on the size of the cylinder in each instance. For example, the volume of the cylinders may range from 0.4 L to 6.6 L, and the drum may be sized to accommodate 24 cylinders each having a volume of 0.4 L in a first embodiment, or 6 cylinders each having a volume of 6.6 L in a second embodiment, or 12 cylinders each having a volume of the 2.2 L in a third embodiment.

The invention in another aspect relates to a programmable lock and key system that provides a package with a restricted access character, a tracking capability, and a recorded history of when and where the package has been opened. In a still further embodiment, the invention contemplates the provision of a global positioning satellite (GPS), as a controller for such programmable lock and key system.

The GPS programmable lock and key system utilizes a programmable electro-mechanical locking system providing a log of lock operation (date and time information), in combination with a GPS system providing geographic and/or spatial information on the location of the package.

In one specific embodiment, the GPS system is coupled with the programmable electro-mechanical locking system, so that the latter can be actuated for unlocking only when the GPS component indicates that the locking system is in a specific geographic area. In one particular arrangement of this embodiment, a GPS programmable lock and key system can is programmably adapted so that the GPS device generates a signal that is transmitted to the lock and/or key, to enable the lock to be opened only in predetermined geographic locations, such as a customs checkpoint, a distributor's warehouse, or an end user's facility. For example, the GPS system can be programmed to actuate the lock by a signal transmitted from the GPS to the lock, thereby placing the lock in an actuatable mode in which an electronic key can be employed to open the lock, and permit access to the locked container package, when the physical location of the container package is determined by the GPS system to be within a specified set of coordinates.

The programmable electro-mechanical locking system can be of any suitable type. One such locking system is the CyberLock system, commercially available from Videx, Inc. (Corvallis, Oreg., http://www.videx.com/products/detail/cyberlock.html). The CyberLock system utilizes an electronic key that is programmed with access privileges for each authorized user. Each time that the key is used at the lock, a record including lock identification, date and time is stored in the key, while the key identification, date and time are stored as a record in the lock. The lock and key also record attempts by an unauthorized person to open the lock. The system may be employed with software that schedules access times, maintains a log of lock access, generates reports and disables lost keys. The software may be employed on a handheld or desktop computer or other processor, arranged in signal communication relationship with the lock and/or key. When the programmable electro-mechanical locking system is integrated with a GPS device in the manner described above, such handheld or desktop computer or other processor can also be arranged in signal processing and signal communication relationship with the GPS device.

Programmable electro-mechanical locking systems have conventionally been employed for security and access control of stationary installations, but have not heretofore been employed for tracking and access control of transportable articles in the manner of the present invention. Further, due to such prior usage for security and access control of stationary installations, the date and time information afforded by the locking system has not needed to be associated with any geographic or spatial information.

The present invention in one preferred aspect utilizes a programmable electro-mechanical locking system in the management of high sensitivity materials, such as hazardous chemicals, nuclear waste, currency, securities, antiquities, artworks, hazardous biological materials, valuables, secrets, historical artifacts, transactional documents, etc.

As applied to chemical materials management, the invention contemplates the application of programmable electro-mechanical locking systems to chemicals in supply chains. The materials management system for such purpose can include any suitable containers to which the programmable electro-mechanical locking system is adaptable, including, for example, cylinders, barrels, ampoules, bottles, crucibles, boxes, cases, bags, liners, crates, and the like, which are locked with an appropriate electronic or electromechanical lock openable by an electronic key that is appropriately programmed, e.g., with a predetermined expiration date, access dates and/or times, number of uses, etc., and transmitted to an authorized access party, who may for example be a government inspector, manufacturer's representative, independent analyst, broker, testing laboratory, distributor, reseller, end-user, etc. By this arrangement, the material can be accessed only by an intended authorized party or parties.

In one specific embodiment, the material container is a gas cylinder, e.g., an adsorbent-based subatmospheric pressure gas storage and delivery cylinder of the type described hereinabove, equipped with a programmable electromechanical lock openable by electronic keys.

In a further aspect, the invention contemplates the application of programmable electronic or electro-mechanical locking systems as described above for materials management, in combination with a global position device that is coupled with the locking system to allow a package containing the material to be opened only within certain geographic boundaries.

The coupling of the programmable electro-mechanical locking system with the global position device can be effected in any of various ways. In one embodiment, a GPS signal is electronically wired to the lock of the locking system, as previously described. In another embodiment, a GPS signal is electronically wired to the electronic key of the locking system. In another embodiment, sequential lock operation is required in which the electronic key is deployed to activate the lock of a GPS unit with a first lock, to open it, and immediately thereafter (within a predetermined time frame) the same electronic key is used to activate the second lock for unopening thereof. In this way, the number of GPS transducers can be reduced, with one GPS transducer serving many keys.

Thus, the invention contemplates a time- and spatially-programmable lock system enabling control by an originator, sender or other appropriate person of the material once the material has left the possession of such person. An electronically traceable trail of the access is provided, to aid in avoiding misdirection, theft, damage, contamination, loss or other adverse circumstance involving the material contained in the package equipped with such lock system. For example, such electronic trail of a chemical material can be utilized to verify that the package was appropriately filled with a specific chemical reagent by a specific manufacturer on a specific date, thereby avoiding instances of containers being filled or refilled with wrong materials, directed to a wrong process tool, or otherwise compromised.

As another variant embodiment, locks could also be programmed to expire after the useful lifetime of a packaged material, thereby preventing use of the out-of-specification materials in sensitive process applications.

The present invention thus contemplates a packaging apparatus and method in which a cylinder containing hazardous gas is secured by a safety system providing an additional level of protection, enabling transportation personnel to quickly and safely check the integrity of the package. The safety system may variously employ the previously described container package including an overpack in which the cylinder is maintained in a gas environment at a pressure that is above the pressure of the hazardous gas contained in the cylinder, and/or a programmable locking system, in which the programmable locking system optionally, and preferably, is integrated with a GPS system controlling the operability of the locking system.

Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gas container package 10 according to one embodiment of the present invention including an overpack II having an array of gas-containing vessels 20 therein. The overpack 11 includes a cylindrical side wall 14, floor member 12, and lid 16 defining an interior volume 18 in which the vessel array is disposed. The vessels 20 are maintained in position in the interior volume by a foam inner liner (described more fully hereinafter, but not shown in FIG. 1 for ease of illustration of the interiorly disposed vessel array).

The floor member 12 of the overpack 11 is joined leak-tightly to side wall 14 along the circumference of the circular floor member, e.g., by welding, brazing, fusion bonding or other suitable joining technique ensuring leak-tightness. The lid 16 of the overpack is leak-tightly secured to the upper end of the side wall 14 by a circumferential clamping ring 22 having split ends joined to fastening flanges 24 and 26. The fastening flanges 24 and 26 are cooperatively coupled by a mechanical fastening assembly including bolt 34 and nut 36.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the bolt 34 of the bolt and nut assembly is passed through a central bore of the cylindrical upper portion 28 of the time- and spatially-programmable lock 30 having a main housing portion 31 coupled to the cylindrical upper portion. When the programmable lock 30 is locked, the cylindrical upper portion 28 engages bolt 34 so that the bolt is fixedly positioned and cannot be removed from the bore of the cylindrical upper portion until the main housing portion provides an electronic unlocking signal to the cylindrical upper portion, whereupon the cylindrical upper portion 28 disengages from the bolt 34 and permits its removal. The main housing portion 31 contains the lock system electronics that are responsive to an electronic key (not shown in FIG. 1) and include GPS componentry and transducer circuitry enabling unlocking to occur only when the GPS componentry generates a signal indicating to the locking/unlocking mechanism that the gas container package is in an appropriate geographic location.

The lock system electronics, locking/unlocking mechanism, GPS componentry and transducer circuitry, and electronic keys are all readily fabricated and programmably arranged in a specific implementation, within the skill of the art based on the disclosure herein.

By the provision of the time- and spatially-programmable lock 30, the gas container package is maintained in a tamper-proof condition during transport, so that only authorized persons having possession of electronic keys compatible with the lock can gain access to the contents of the gas container package.

Until it is unlocked and the lid 16 is removed from the upper end of the side wall, the lid is clamped by the circumferential clamping ring 22 to the upper end of the side wall in a leak-tight fashion, and for this purpose, the container package may further employ gaskets or other sealing structures to ensure such leak-tightness.

When sealed, the interior volume 18 of the container package is maintained at a pressure that is above the pressure existing in the gas vessels 20 in the interior volume 18, by fill of the interior volume with pressurizing gas, preferably an inert pressurizing gas such as nitrogen, argon, helium, or the like, whereby any leakage of any of the vessels 20 will result in initial inflow of the pressurizing gas into the leaking vessel.

When a multiplicity of gas vessels is contained in the interior volume of the container package, it will be recognized that the internal pressure in individual vessels may be different from one vessel to another. In such instance, the pressurizing gas is that a pressure that is in excess of the highest of the individual vessel internal pressures.

The vessels 20 in the container package in a preferred embodiment are vessels containing adsorbent having sorptive affinity for the gas of interest, wherein the pressure of the gas in the vessels is less than 1 atmosphere, e.g., 0.4-0.9 atmosphere, and the pressure of the pressurizing gas in the interior volume of the overpack is in excess of atmospheric pressure, e.g., a pressure of 1.2-1.5 atmospheres.

The container package once loaded with gas-containing vessels 20 and sealed is pressurized via the valve 40 mounted in the lid 16, in a first port therein. The lid also includes a second port in which is disposed a pressure gauge 38, so that pressure in the interior volume of the container package can be visually monitored.

In lieu of, or in addition to, the use of a pressure gauge, the container package may employ a pressure transducer arranged in signal transmitting relationship, e.g., wirelessly, to an output display device, such as a screen on a handheld or desktop computer or other processor, as well as other instrumentation and monitoring devices, output displays, as previously described herein.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the container package 10 of FIG. 1, wherein all parts and elements are numbered correspondingly with respect to the same parts and elements in FIG. 1. As shown, the overpack 11 includes floor 12 leak-tightly joined to side wall 14, and the lid 16 retained in sealing position by circumferential clamping ring 22, and featuring the valve 40 and pressure gauge 38. The container package 10 may be formed as a steel drum, of cylindrical shape, and having an appropriate volume for retaining an array of gas-containing vessels therein.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view, in cross-section, of the container package 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2, wherein all corresponding parts and elements are correspondingly numbered.

FIG. 3 shows the foam inner liner as including an upper liner portion 52 and a lower liner portion 50, filling the interior volume 18 of the overpack. The upper and lower portions of the foam inner liner are fabricated with matably alignable cavities therein, so that when the upper and lower portions of the foam inner liner are mated with one another, pockets are provided that contain the gas-containing vessels 54 and 56 (of the multiple vessels array shown in FIG. 1), in a positionally fixed manner.

The foam inner liner may be formed of polymeric foam material, or alternatively, the interior volume 18 may contain other non-foam structures, which function to fixedly position the vessels in the interior volume, and protect them from shock, impact, vibration, etc. The foam liner in a preferred embodiment is formed of a low thermal conductivity material to constitute an insulant medium in the interior volume, which protects the vessels from thermal shocks, and buffers the vessels during changes in temperature conditions in the ambient environment of the container package.

The liner in the container package thus may be of any suitable material of construction and of any appropriate form, e.g., in the form of particles, web or sheet-form structures, batting, mats, aggregates, screens, powders, solid media of open-cell or closed cell character, laminates, bricks, etc., as appropriate to positionally fix the vessels in the container package.

As also shown in FIG. 3, the upper portion 52 of the foam inner liner also has cavities formed therein to accommodate the valve 40 and the pressure gauge 38.

FIG. 4 is a perspective sectional view of a portion of the upper left hand portion of the container package shown in FIG. 3, wherein all corresponding parts and elements are correspondingly labeled. The overpack 11 contains the liner upper portion 52 having a cavity therein to contain the valve 40.

As illustrated, the valve 40 includes mated fittings 60 and 62 positioning the valve coupling 64 for engagement with a mating coupling on a feed line joined to a pressurizing gas supply (not shown), whereby the interior volume of the container package may be pressurized with a suitable pressurizing gas to a pressure that is above the pressure of the gas in the vessels in the container package, after the overpack has been sealed. The circumferentially extending clamping ring 22 is shown in FIG. 4 engaging the rim of the lid 16.

The valve coupling 64 as shown is recessed from the main top surface of the lid, in order to maintain the valve coupling out of exposure to impact or bearing contact with other parts or surfaces that could otherwise damage such valve coupling, and result in leakage and loss of the pressurizing gas to the ambient environment of the container package.

FIG. 5 is a perspective sectional view of a portion of the upper right hand portion of the container package shown in FIG. 3, wherein all corresponding parts and elements are correspondingly labeled. The overpack 11 contains the liner upper portion 52 having a cavity therein to contain the pressure gauge 38.

The pressure gauge 38 may be of any suitable type, e.g., having a dial with a 3.5 cm diameter enabling ready visual determination of the pressure condition in the interior volume of the overpack. The pressure gauge 38 in the embodiment shown is mounted on a modified pipe bushing 68 joined in turn to a welded steel coupling 66 that is secured to the lid 16. The lid as shown is circumscribed by the clamping ring 22, to effect leak-tight sealing of the interior volume of the container package.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the lid 16 of the container package of FIGS. 1-5, showing the details of construction thereof. The lid has a first port 86 accommodating the pressure gauge 38 and a second port 88 accommodating the valve 40. The pressure gauge 38 and the valve 40 are mounted on support structures 72 including the fitting 60 supporting the valve 40 and modified pipe bushing 68 supporting the pressure gauge 38. FIG. 6 shows a gauge lens 70 mounted in the first port 86 to protectively overlie the pressure gauge 38, while allowing for ready visual inspection of the gauge to determine the pressure in the interior volume of the container package.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the lid 16 of the FIGS. 1-6 container package, numbered correspondingly with respect to the preceding drawings. The valve coupling mounted in the second port is provided with a hard cap 80, e.g. of a hard plastic material, whereby the valve is protected from dust and contamination. FIG. 7 also shows the gauge lens 70 in the first port of the lid, arranged to overlie the pressure gauge.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view, in elevational cross-section, of a portion of the lid 16 shown in the preceding drawings, as depicted with the associated pressure gauge 38 in the first port at the right-hand side of the lid as illustrated, and valve 40 mounted on fitting 60 in the second port on the left-hand side of the lid as illustrated.

As discussed hereinabove, in lieu of the viewable pressure gauge 38 shown in FIGS. 1-8 herein, the container package may employ additional or different pressure monitoring elements. For example, the container package may incorporate a pressure transducer that is coupled with a radio frequency antenna to transmit a signal indicative of the pressure in the interior volume of the container package, or other and different devices may be employed to monitor the pressure condition of the interior volume during pressurizing gas filling, or subsequent storage and/or transport of the container package.

It will also be appreciated that additional monitoring and control features and capabilities may be incorporated in the container package of the invention, including RFID or other “smart” tags, thermal management features (e.g., providing the overpack with on-board heat exchange capability, forming the overpack container with fins or other extended area heat transfer surface, etc.), leak detection devices in the interior volume specific for the gas contained in the vessels held in the overpack, chemisorbent ampoules in the interior volume for uptake of outwardly diffusing hazardous gas from sorbent-containing vessels experiencing leak behavior, etc. Further, the conformation of the overpack may be varied from the cylindrical geometry illustratively shown and described herein, to encompass overpacks that are of cubic, rectangular parallelepiped, frustoconical, pyramidal or other shape or geometric form.

Finally, although a programmable electro-mechanical locking system integrated with a global position device, e.g., to allow GPS tracking and/or geographically restricted access via the locking system, has been illustratively described in application to a gas container package, it will be recognized that the utility of such arrangement is not thus limited, but that such GPS-augmented programmable electromechanical locking system is broadly useful in any circumstance in which information, material or an article is susceptible to being secured by a locked arrangement, and in which restricted access to the locked item is desirably accommodated while ensuring that no unauthorized access has occurred.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The invention provides a highly secure containment package for hazardous or otherwise sensitive materials, of a “tamper-proof” character, that provides the tracking capability and indication of when and where the containment package has been opened or otherwise accessed. The containment package technology of the invention facilitates legitimate inspections and contents verification of packages by customs agents, police, military and other government and commercial personnel, while safeguarding the containment package contents against unlawful or unauthorized intrusion.