Title:
AIR VENTILATION SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed at an air ventilation system for use with semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Specifically, the ventilation system of the present invention adjusts vents or outlets located on an enclosure used for semiconductor manufacturing between a restricted state and an open state. When the vents and/or outlets are in an open state, a high flow rate through the enclosure is able to properly scavenge toxic and volatile gasses to safely remove them. When the vents and/or outlets are in a restricted state, the flow rate of gases therethrough is substantially or fully restricted. Upon the sensing of a condition (or the lack thereof) or the manual operation of an operator, the vents and/or outlets are selectively adjusted between the restricted and open states.



Inventors:
Haro, Robert C. (Gilbert, AZ, US)
Application Number:
12/017705
Publication Date:
07/23/2009
Filing Date:
01/22/2008
Assignee:
ASM AMERICA, INC. (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F24F7/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
TOWNS, BRITTANY E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Snell & Wilmer (ASM IP Holding B.V.) (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A semiconductor processing tool comprising: an enclosed space through which air flows; an outlet in fluid communication with said enclosed space; and an inlet in fluid communication with said enclosed space wherein at least one of said inlet or said outlet is operable between a restricted state and an open state based on the presence or absence of a condition.

2. The semiconductor processing enclosure according to claim 1, further comprising an access panel configured to grant access to said enclosed space, wherein the presence of the condition occurs when said access panel is in an open position.

3. The semiconductor processing enclosure according to claim 2, wherein said access panel is a door.

4. The semiconductor processing enclosure according to claim 3, wherein said door further comprises a handle and a sensor that is operatively connected to said handle.

5. The semiconductor processing enclosure according to claim 4, wherein said presence of the condition occurs when an operator contacts said handle.

6. The semiconductor processing enclosure according to claim 4, wherein said door further comprises a rod connected to said inlet and movement of said door causes a grate in said inlet to change orientation from a restricted state to an open state.

7. The semiconductor processing enclosure according to claim 1, wherein the condition is a sensed condition that comprises one selected from the group comprising: a change in temperature within said enclosure, a change in pressure within said enclosure, a change of gaseous composition within said enclosure, a change in humidity level within said enclosure, a change in particulate level within said enclosure, a fire within said enclosure, an explosion within said enclosure, an implosion within said enclosure, a change in amount of a particular gas within said enclosure, and a change in percentage of a particular gas within said enclosure.

8. The semiconductor processing enclosure according to claim 4, wherein said sensor can be any one of a chamber presence sensor, a gas leak detection sensor, and emergency power sensor, or a thermal runaway sensor.

9. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 1, wherein said inlet, said outlet, or a combination thereof, is maintained in said restricted state prior to said presence of a condition.

10. A semiconductor processing tool with a ventilation system comprising: an enclosed space defined by said semiconductor processing tool; a door connected to said semiconductor processing tool; a ventilation system in communication with said semiconductor processing tool operable between a restricted state and an open state; and a sensor in communication with said ventilation system.

11. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 10, wherein said sensor is in communication with said enclosed space.

12. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 10, wherein said ventilation system further comprises an actuator.

13. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 12, wherein said actuator is connected to a movable panel, wherein said movable panel restricts air flow into said enclosed space when said ventilation system is in said restricted state and provides a less restricted air flow into said enclosed space than when said ventilation system is in said open state.

14. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 10, wherein said sensor senses said integrity of said enclosed space.

15. A method of selectively moving air through an enclosure used for semiconductor processing comprising: enclosing an environment acceptable for semiconductor processing, wherein said enclosed environment further comprises a door and an inlet, wherein said inlet is operable between an open state and a restricted state; detecting the presence of a condition; and directing said inlet enter an open state based on the presence of the condition or a restricted state based upon the absence of the condition.

16. The method according to claim 15, wherein the condition comprises one selected from the group comprising: a change in temperature within said enclosure, a change in pressure within said enclosure, a change of gaseous composition within said enclosure, a change in humidity level within said enclosure, a change in particulate level within said enclosure, a fire within said enclosure, an explosion within said enclosure, an implosion within said enclosure, a change in amount of a particular gas within said enclosure, and a change in percentage of a particular gas within said enclosure.

17. A semiconductor processing tool comprising: an enclosed space defined by said semiconductor processing tool; a movable panel attached to said semiconductor processing tool; and a ventilation system in communication with said enclosed space and coupled to said movable panel, said ventilation system being operable between an open state and a restricted state.

18. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 17, wherein movement of said movable panel actuates said ventilation system.

19. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 17, wherein said moveable panel is a door that can be in an open or a closed position.

20. The tool according to claim 19, wherein said ventilation system is in an open state when said door is in the open position and a restricted state when the door is in a closed position.

21. A semiconductor processing tool comprising: an enclosed space of said semiconductor processing tool through which conditioned air is flowable; at least one inlet operatively connected to said processing tool, wherein conditioned air external to said enclosed space enters said enclosed space through said at least one inlet; at least one outlet operatively connected to said processing tool, wherein gases within said enclosure exit said enclosed space through said at least one outlet; and a ventilating system operatively connected to said processing tool, wherein said ventilating system selectively adjusts said flow rate through one of said at least one inlet or said at least one outlet based on a change of at least one condition.

22. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 21, wherein the ventilating system maintains said at least one inlet, said at least one outlet, or a combination thereof in said restricted state prior to the change of at least one condition.

23. The semiconductor processing tool according to claim 21, wherein said ventilating system is configured to selectively adjust said state of one selected from the group consisting of only at least one inlet, only at least one outlet, and a combination of at least one inlet and at least one outlet based on the change of at least one condition.

24. The semiconductor processing tool of claim 21, wherein the condition is a sensed condition that comprises one selected from the group comprising a change in temperature within said enclosure, a change in pressure within said enclosure, a change of gaseous composition within said enclosure, a change in humidity level within said enclosure, a change in particulate level within said enclosure, a fire within said enclosure, an explosion within said enclosure, an implosion within said enclosure, a change in amount of a particular gas within said enclosure, and a change in percentage of a particular gas within said enclosure.

25. The semiconductor processing tool of claim 21, wherein said condition comprises a manual adjustment by an operator.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

The invention relates to an automated air ventilation system for use with enclosures such as those used in semiconductor manufacturing and processing. More particularly, the device of the present invention comprises an automated ventilation system that enables an enclosure to only have the maximum flow rate when desired, for example, based on the presence or absence of one or more conditions that require a high flow rate.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Semiconductor manufacturing requires numerous gasses that are highly explosive, toxic, corrosive, or otherwise harmful. These gasses are typically found in numerous machines and processing tools that include enclosures that are used (in part) to prevent the gasses from escaping into the immediate working environment and causing harm. Allowing these gasses to build up within the enclosures can lead to explosions and releases of the toxic gasses into the surrounding environment.

To prevent gas buildup within the enclosures, a certain quantity of air must flow through the enclosures to properly scavenge and/or dilute the toxic gasses. Generally, this flow is the result of a draw point or a duct that is connected to a facility exhaust system that has a lower pressure than the atmosphere outside the enclosure. This pressure differential causes air to flow from outside the enclosure, through the inlet orifices to the exhaust system through the exit outlet or duct. An alternative method would be to have the exit vent in a room of lesser pressure than the room where the inlet vent is located. A ventilation system comprising an inlet vent and an outlet (such as an exhaust duct) in communication with the enclosure enables the flow rate within the enclosure. Certain exemplary pieces of semiconductor manufacturing equipment utilize billions of cubic feet per year of conditioned air to maintain the required flow rate for safe operation of semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

Maintaining a high flow rate can be expensive as the air used must generally be conditioned for temperature, humidity, particles, and other factors that are typically required in the manufacture of semiconductors. Such conditioning is costly and can exceed tens of thousands of dollars per machine on an annual basis.

That being said, it is not necessary to maintain a high flow rate at all times during a particular machine's operation. Typically, a high flow rate is only needed a very small percentage of the time that a tool is operating. For example, many semiconductor manufacturing tools require a high flow rate only three percent of the total operating time. Certain exemplary times when a high flow rate is needed include times when a technician gains access to the enclosure by removing an access panel or if an explosion, implosion or other similar event has already occurred within the enclosure and a gas release has occurred. For reasons of safety, the flow rate through these enclosures are typically set at “worst-case” conditions (where a high flow rate is required) and is therefore higher than is required for “general and/or least case” situations.

Because current semiconductor manufacturing tools utilize a high flow rate the entire time they operate regardless of whether such a high flow rate is actually needed, these tools consume a tremendous amount of energy and money. Therefore, an automated ventilation system for use with semiconductor manufacturing tools that selectively provides a high flow rate based upon the need for such a high flow rate is desired.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

As set forth in the detailed description and accompanying figures, the present invention comprises, in various exemplary embodiments, a device configured to overcome a typical ventilation system's shortcomings by providing a system and device that adjusts the air flow within an enclosure used for semiconductor manufacturing based upon the occurrence of one or more conditions. As a result, the ventilation system of the present invention reduces the cost to operate semiconductor manufacturing equipment because of the reduced amount of conditioned air that is consumed.

In accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, an automated air ventilation system for use with semiconductor manufacturing equipment is provided. In accordance with one exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the ventilation system comprises an air inlet orifice restriction system that is configured to enable an air inlet to be in an open state to allow for a high flow rate and a restricted state to prevent a high flow rate. The ventilation system changes its orientation from a restricted state to an open state based on the occurrence of one or more conditions. Certain exemplary conditions comprise opening a door or removing a panel to gain access to the enclosure, or attempting to do the same by, for example, unlocking a locking mechanism on the panel or door, or the occurrence of an explosion, implosion, gas leak, or other similar event within the enclosure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The subject invention will hereinafter be described in conjunction with the appended drawing figures, wherein like numerals denote like elements, and wherein;

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of the present invention depicting an enclosure used for semiconductor manufacturing with a ventilation system and access panels in an exemplary embodiment;

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of the present invention depicting a guillotine-type air inlet actuator in a position that enables air to enter an enclosure used for semiconductor manufacturing according to an exemplary embodiment;

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of the present invention depicting a guillotine-type air inlet actuator in a restricted position mechanically coupled to an access door that prevents air from entering an enclosure used for semiconductor manufacturing according to an exemplary embodiment;

FIGS. 4A and 4B are schematic diagrams of the present invention depicting an air inlet actuator mechanically coupled to an access door in both an open state (FIG. 4A) that enables air to enter an enclosure used for semiconductor manufacturing and a restricted state (FIG. 4B) that prevents air from entering the enclosure according to an exemplary embodiment;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of the ventilation system according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 6 is a flow chart showing the steps and logic of the air ventilation system according to an exemplary embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The detailed description of various exemplary embodiments of the invention herein makes reference to the accompanying figures. While these exemplary embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, it should be understood that other embodiments may be realized and that logical and mechanical changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, the detailed description herein is presented for purposes of illustration only and not of limitation. Additionally, while the disclosure herein describes the present invention used in connection with semiconductor manufacturing and processing, it should be noted that the air ventilation restriction system can be used with any ventilation system or area receiving circulating air.

In accordance with various exemplary embodiments of the present invention, an air ventilation restriction system for use with semiconductor manufacturing or processing equipment is disclosed. The air ventilation restriction system is configured to be used with an enclosure that houses one or more machines/tools used for semiconductor manufacturing along with numerous volatile or hazardous gasses that may be commonly present during any step of the semiconductor manufacturing process.

The ventilation system of the present invention is an automated or mechanically-operated system that adjusts vents on an enclosure from a restricted state to an open state based on the detection of a presence of one or more predetermined conditions that require a high flow rate within the enclosure. For example, the vents that can be adjusted include inlet, outlet, or any other type of vents that allow air to flow into or out of the enclosure.

In accordance with various embodiments, the ventilation system generally comprises an enclosure where semiconductors are manufactured or processed, the enclosure having various inlets, outlets, and a door or other access panel.

For example, more specifically, in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention and with reference to FIGS. 1-5, an enclosed space such as an enclosure 12 used for semiconductor manufacturing is equipped with a ventilation system 10. Enclosure 12 comprises a body, inlets 14, outlets 18, and an access panel 16. The inlets 14 and outlets 18 are in fluid communication with the enclosed space defined by enclosure 12. In an exemplary embodiment, inlets 14 can be any opening or orifice such as slits, holes, apertures, mesh screens, ducts, or any device configured to allow air or other gasses to enter the enclosure 12. Outlets 18 provide an exit for gases located within the enclosure 12. In an embodiment, ductwork (not shown) can extend from the outlets 18 and is operatively connected to a vacuum or other mechanism that causes gases within the enclosure to be withdrawn therefrom through the outlets 18. In another embodiment, the outlets 18 are slits, holes, apertures, mesh screens, ducts, or any other device through which gases within the enclosure are withdrawn. The enclosure 12 is configured to provide a pressure differential between the interior of the enclosure 12 and the location immediately adjacent to the external surface of the outlets 18 such that the gases flow into the enclosure 12 through the inlets 14 and exit the enclosure 12 through the outlets 18. Accordingly, the flow rate of gases into the enclosure 12 via the inlets 14 and out of the enclosure 12 via the outlets 18 can be selectively adjustable at the inlets 14, the outlets 18, or a combination thereof.

Further, access panel 16 can be a door mounted by hinges to enclosure 12, a slideable door, a removable panel, or anything else that grants a user access to enclosure 12. Inlets 14 and outlets 18 can located anywhere on enclosure 12 such as a fixed panel that may form a sidewall of the enclosure 12 or on an access panel 16. The present invention also contemplates that the air drawn through the enclosure 12 is appropriately conditioned for semiconductor manufacturing.

In this exemplary embodiment, enclosure 12 further comprises exhaust pipes (not shown) and a filter 19 such as a HEPA filter which is configured to remove dirt, debris, and other contaminants from air that enters enclosure 12. Further, in one exemplary embodiment, air that enters enclosure 12 is conditioned for temperature, humidity, particles, and any other factor to make the air suitable for semiconductor manufacturing.

Further, while the present disclosure is directed at a specific embodiment where ventilation system 10 is used with semiconductor manufacturing equipment, ventilation system 10 can be used with any equipment or space that requires the use of conditioned air. Further, in yet other embodiments, ventilation system 10 can be applied to other applications where air may not be pre-conditioned but must be treated after it has exited a confined space such as enclosure 12.

As mentioned above, ventilation system 10 is an automated or mechanically-operated ventilation system for enclosure 12 that selectively adjusts the inlets 14 through which air and gases enter the enclosure 12 or the outlets 18 through which air and gases exit the enclosure 12 from a restricted flow rate to an open state, thereby allowing air to flow through the enclosure 12 at an unrestricted or higher flow rate. Ventilation system 10 is typically in a restricted state to avoid excessive consumption of conditioned air to reduce costs associated with conditioned air. In one exemplary embodiment, ventilation system 10 is configured to selectively adjust the inlet 14 through which air enters the enclosure 12. In other exemplary embodiments, ventilation system 10 is configured to selectively adjust outlets 18 through which air exits the enclosure 12. In yet another embodiment, the ventilation system 10 is configured to selectively adjust both the inlets 14 and outlets 18 of the enclosure 12 between a restricted state and an open state. It should be understood by one skilled in the art that when the inlets 14 and/or outlets 18 are in the open state, the inlets 14 and/or outlets 18 allow more air to flow therethrough relative to when the inlets 14 and/or outlets 18 are in the restricted state. It should also be understood by one skilled in the art that the term “open state,” as used herein, means that the inlets 14 and/or the outlets 18 are fully open such that the flow rate of gases flowing therethrough have little or no restriction. It should also be understood by one skilled in the art that the term “restricted state,” as used herein, means that the inlets 14 and/or outlets 18 are either partially or fully closed such that the flow rate of the gases flowing therethrough is less than the flow rate flowing therethrough when the inlets 14 and/or outlets are in the open state. In an embodiment, the inlets 14 and the outlets 18 can be independently adjustable between the restricted state and the open state. In another embodiment, the inlets 14 and ducts can be simultaneously and correspondingly adjustable between the restricted state and the open state.

In accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention and with reference to FIGS. 2-3, ventilation system 10 comprises actuator 20 which is in communication with inlet 14. The exemplary embodiment of the ventilation system 10 is shown and described with reference to controlling the flow rate of gases through an inlet 14. However, it should be understood that the ventilation system 10 can likewise be configured to control the flow rate of gases through the outlets 18. Actuator 20 is any mechanism that is capable of covering the inlet 14 or otherwise adjusting inlets 14 to enable inlets 14 to be adjustable between the restricted state and the open state.

In one exemplary embodiment, actuator 20 is a guillotine style device and comprises a moveable panel 22 which is operatively connected to a driving mechanism 24. Driving mechanism 24 can be any mechanism configured to move moveable panel 22. Certain exemplary driving mechanisms include pneumatic devices, piston driven systems, air cylinders, electric motors, or any other such similar mechanism. While moveable panel 22 is depicted as a guillotine style blade in this exemplary embodiment, moveable panel 22 can be any device used to cover and/or obstruct gas flow through the inlets 14. In certain exemplary embodiments, an access door panel sensor is utilized and senses when movable panel 22 is about to be opened and operates ventilation system 10 to reduce pressure within enclosure 12 to enable access panel 22 to be opened easily.

In the normal operating conditions of the semiconductor tool having the enclosure 12, the inlets 14 are in a restricted state, thereby reducing the amount of conditioned air flowing through the enclosure 12. In certain exemplary embodiments, ventilation system 10 further comprises one or more sensors 11 that are operatively connected to actuator 20 that control the operation of actuator 20. When at least one sensor 11 detects the presence or absence of one or more sensed conditions, the inlets 14 are selectively adjusted from the restricted state to the open state to provide a high flow rate of gases through the enclosure to scavenge volatile undesirable gasses and/or other types of dangerous gasses that may be present within enclosure 12 or to generally dilute the gases within the enclosure 12.

For example, one sensed condition is when an operator of the equipment is attempting to gain or gaining access to enclosure 12 by attempting to open or remove access panel 16. Another exemplary sensed condition is when there is an integrity change within enclosure 12 that may result from an unusually high volume of volatile gasses, an explosion or an implosion within enclosure 12. In yet other exemplary embodiments, sensor 11 can detect whether or not the user desired that the inlets 14 be changed from a restricted state to an open state based on user input. As such, a user can selectively adjust the state of inlets 14 if they desire if none of the sensed conditions are present to automatically change the state of inlets 14. Certain sensed conditions comprise, but are not necessarily limited to, a changes in temperature within the enclosure 12, a change in pressure within the enclosure 12, a change of gaseous composition within the enclosure 12, a change in humidity level within the enclosure 12, a change in particulate level within the enclosure 12, a fire within the enclosure 12, an explosion within the enclosure 12, an implosion within the enclosure 12, a change in amount of a particular gas within the enclosure, and a change in percentage of a particular gas within the enclosure 12.

Sensors 11 may also detect the presence or absence of two or more conditions. For example, in such an embodiment, the first condition is whether or not a user is obtaining access to enclosure 12 based on movement or attempted movement of access panel 16 or a latch/lock used for opening access panel 16. The second condition is whether the integrity within enclosure 12 has been compromised by a release of toxic fumes, an explosion, an implosion, or any atmospheric change that would create an explosion or other risk within enclosure 12.

Upon sensing the presence of at least one sensed condition, the sensor 11 sends a signal to actuator 20 which directs the driving mechanism 24 to move the moveable panel 22 away from inlets 14 to adjust the inlet 14 to the open state to obtain a high flow rate of gases therethrough. When the sensed condition is no longer present as detected by sensor 11, a second signal is sent to actuator 20 which in turn directs that driving mechanism 24 move moveable panel 22 to return the inlet 14 to a restricted state. Alternatively, the lack of a signal from sensor 11 indicates that driving mechanism 24 should maintain the moveable panel 22 over the inlet 14 in a restricted state.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention and with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, sensor 11 can sense whether or not access panel 16 has been moved or the operator intends to move access panel 16 to gain entry to enclosure 12. For example, sensor 11 can be a capacitance sensor located within a handle 26 used to move access panel 16, though sensor 11 may alternatively comprise other type of sensors that detect a user contacting handle 26 such as a thermal sensor to detect body heat that would occur when a user's hand touches handle 26. Other exemplary sensors comprise an emergency power sensor and a thermal runaway sensor. Further, sensor 11 can be disposed within a frame of enclosure 12 that supports access panel 16. This type of sensor may comprise a two piece sensor wherein one piece is in the frame and another is located on the edge of access panel 16. When access panel 16 is installed within enclosure 12, a signal is sent between the two sensors. However, when access panel 16 is removed from enclosure 12, the signal is no longer sent between the two parts of sensor 11 indicating the occurrence of a sensed condition, namely an open access panel 16.

In yet another exemplary embodiment, at least one sensor 11 is in communication with an operating mechanism that automatically operates access panel 16. When this operating mechanism begins move or remove access panel 16, sensor 11 sends a signal to actuator 20 to selectively adjust the inlet 14 from a restricted state to an open state (or vice versa) depending on whether access panel is being removed from enclosure 12 or replaced.

In another embodiment, the sensor 11 can be eliminated such that the actuator 20 is mechanically coupled or otherwise linked to access panel 16. In this exemplary embodiment depicted in FIG. 3, a mechanical coupling 28, such as a clevis mount (not shown) or any other similar device, attaches driving mechanism 24 to access panel 16. Therefore, the movement of access panel 16 causes the driving mechanism 24 to move moveable panel 22 when the handle 26 is operated. Accordingly, as the handle 26 is lifted or moved to remove the access panel 16, the driving mechanism 24 moves the moveable panel 22, thereby selectively adjusting the inlet 14 from a restricted state to an open state to increase the flow rate of gases through the inlet 14.

In this embodiment, access panel 16 is configured to move within the body of enclosure 12 upwards in the direction of arrows A. In other exemplary embodiments, access panel 16 can be moved downwards in the opposite direction than that depicted. In yet other embodiments, access panel can be moved side to side. This movement of access panel 16 moves both the coupling mechanism 28 and the driving mechanism 24, which in turn pulls moveable panel 22 upwardly to allow inlet 14 to be in the open state and enclosure 12 to have a high flow rate therethrough. When the door is moved back to the closed position, it in turn moves coupling mechanism 28 and driving mechanism 24 and moveable panel 22 back over inlet 14 placing inlet 14 in a restricted state.

In accordance with another exemplary embodiment of the present invention and with reference to FIGS. 4A and 4B, the grate 21 of the inlet 14 is itself selectively adjustable between an open state (FIG. 4A) and a restricted state (FIG. 4B). In this exemplary embodiment, the handle 26 of the access panel 16 is mechanically coupled to the grate 21 of the inlet 14 by a rod 30 and configured to move the grate 21 upwardly in the direction of arrow A. The rod 30 operatively connects the access panel 16 and the grate 21 of the inlet 14. Movement of the handle 26 in the upwardly or downwardly direction relative to arrow A causes the access panel 16 to move in a corresponding manner. As the handle 26 is lifted to open the access panel 16 or the handle 26 is lowered to lock the access panel 16, the rod 30 translates or moves in a corresponding manner, thereby selectively adjusting the grate 21 of the inlet 14 between the open and restricted states. In other exemplary embodiments, access panel 16 can be moved side to side or any other direction in which movement of the handle 26 and access panel 16 causes the inlet 14 to be adjusted between the open and restricted states. When access panel 16 is moved upward in the direction of arrows A, rod 30 is also moved upward thereby placing inlets 14 in an open state as depicted in FIG. 4B.

In other exemplary embodiments, rod 30 can be coupled to a motor instead of completely depending upon the movement of handle 26 or access panel 16. In yet other exemplary embodiments, at least one sensor 11 can be used as described above to send a signal to a motor coupled to rod 30 and operate the grate 21 of the inlet 14 as described above based on the presence or absence of certain conditions.

Besides the attempted or actual movement of the handle 26 or the access panel 16 in various embodiments, ventilation system 10 may be activated depending on whether or not the integrity within enclosure 12 has been compromised. As used herein, the term “integrity” denotes any change of atmosphere, gaseous composition, humidity level, particulate level, fire, temperature, explosion, implosion, pressure change, a certain amount of a particular gas, a percentage of a particular gas or any other atmospheric change they may occur within enclosure 12.

In this exemplary embodiment, a sensor 11 can sense the change of integrity within enclosure 12 and then send a signal to the actuator 20 (FIG. 2). Actuator 20 then directs the driving mechanism 24 to move moveable panel 22 upwardly (e.g. as depicted in FIG. 2.) thereby placing the inlet 14 in an open state allowing for a high flow rate. Certain exemplary sensors 11 to sense for and detect integrity changes comprise, but are certainly not limited to, a chamber presence sensor, a gas leak detector sensor, an emergency power off (EPO), thermal run away sensor.

In accordance with another exemplary embodiment and with reference to FIG. 5, a block diagram depicts the connection between various sensors 11 of the ventilation system 10 and the actuator 20. In this exemplary embodiment, a door sensor 36, a pressure sensor 38, and a temperature gauge 40 are each operatively connected to a signal generator 34. When any of the sensors 36, 38, 40 senses the presence or absence of a sensed condition, the corresponding sensor 36, 38, 40 sends a signal to the signal generator 34. The signal generator 34 receives the signal from the sensors 36, 38, 40 that indicates a change in a sensed condition and sends a corresponding signal to the actuator 20. The actuator 20 then selectively adjusts the inlet 14 to the open or restricted state, depending upon the signal provided by the signal generator 34.

As can be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art, pressure sensor 38 and temperature gauge 40 sense the pressure and temperature within enclosure 12. Further, the door sensor 36 senses whether or not access panel 16 has been moved or the operator intends to move the access panel 16 by gripping the handle 26 when the door sensor 36 is a capacitance sensor as described above. The signal generator 34 monitors the various inputs from sensors 36, 38, 40 and directs the ventilation system 10 to respond as outlined above. For example, if door sensor 36 indicated that a user's hand was on handle 26, or alternatively, if pressure sensor 38 indicated that pressure had increased dramatically within enclosure 12, the corresponding sensor would send a signal to the signal generator 34 that would determine the present state of the inlet 14 and determine if a signal should be sent to the actuator 20 to adjust the state of the inlet 14. For example, if the pressure sensor 38 senses a change in pressure within the enclosure 12, the pressure sensor 38 would send a signal to the signal generator 34. If the inlet 14 is currently in the restricted state, the signal generator 34 would send a signal to the actuator 20 to adjust the inlet 14 from the restricted state to the open state in which the flow rate of gas through the inlet 14 and the enclosure 12 is increased. If the door sensor 36 then senses a change in condition, such as an operator opening the access panel 16, the door sensor 36 would send a signal to the signal generator 34. However, the signal generator 34 verifies that the inlet 14 is already in the open state due to the previous pressure change and subsequent adjustment of the state of the inlet 14. In an embodiment, the signal generator 34 sends a signal to the actuator 20 to maintain the inlet 14 in the open state. In another embodiment, the signal generator would not send a signal to the actuator 20, thereby maintaining the inlet 14 in the open state. The signal generator 34 sends a signal to the actuator 20 to adjust the inlet 14 from the open state to the restricted state when the sensed condition of both sensors 36, 38 is no longer sensed by the corresponding sensor and the signal generator 34 receives a signal from both sensors 36, 38 indicating that the sensed condition is no longer present.

In accordance with another exemplary embodiment of the present invention and with reference FIG. 6, a flow chart depicting certain exemplary steps of operation for ventilation system 10 is depicted. At a step 42, inlets 14 are in a restricted state and no action from ventilation system 10 is required. At a decision point 44, the sensors determine whether an operator is attempting to access enclosure 12. If the answer is yes, ventilation system 10 adjusts inlets 14 to be in an open state. If the answer is no, ventilation system 10 directs that inlets 14 remain in the restricted state.

Alternatively, at decision point 46 the sensors 11 detect whether or not the integrity within enclosure 12 has changed in any way or been compromised. If yes, ventilation system 10 adjusts inlets 14 to the open state as described above. If no, ventilation system 10 ensures that inlets 14 remain in the restricted state.

Finally, various principles of the invention have been described in illustrative embodiments. However, many combinations and modifications of the above-described structures, arrangements, proportions, elements materials and components, used in the practice of the invention, in addition to those not specifically described, can be varied without departing from those principles.