Monthly Archives: April 2016

Lab Design with Soundproofing in Mind

Sometimes lab QuietBench_Shh1design and lab safety go hand in hand. This is especially true with noise. While dedicated lab furniture contributes to noise reduction, as we talk about often, so can lab design when it comes to soundproofing.

After all, it can be just as difficult to focus on your experiments when you’re able to hear instrument noises and voices from an adjoining lab coming through the walls, as it is if the sound is emanating from an unenclosed vacuum pump beneath the mass spectrometer you are using. As we often point out, it is critical to create a quiet lab environment for safety and the sake of the work being conducted.

Understanding Wall Design and Soundproofing

Many people think that insulation is the only variable that matters when it comes to soundproofing a wall. This is not the case, however. To understand why, we need to remember two basic physics lessons.

The first is that sound travels more easily through connected materials (aka “structural paths”) than it does through empty space. This matters because conventional or “standard” walls are constructed by nailing drywall to either side of a single row of studs. As a result, sound travels from the drywall on one side, through the stud, and out through the drywall on the other side—thus easily transmitting sound through the wall, from one room to another.

The second physics lesson tells us that the empty spaces between sections of drywall and the spaces between studs also transmit sound—although not as much as a structural path. This is why many lab designs incorporate insulation into those empty spaces between the walls. But insulation is usually insufficient because it’s just filling in the holes between the structural paths, which remain in place.

Laboratory Design with Soundproofing in Mind

A common solution in the past has been to add more insulation, creating thicker walls but not solving the problem because the structural paths remain, transmitting sound between rooms.

One of the newer solutions to come along in lab design is the idea of a staggered-stud or decoupled wall. In this case, two sets of studs are offset, and drywall is only nailed to one side of each stud. This allows for a continuous band of insulation to be woven between the studs within the wall. Since there is no structural path all the way through the wall, this approach provides a demonstrable positive effect in reducing noise transmission between different labs.

Not All Sound Travels the Same

Unfortunately, not all frequencies of sound are equally baffled by these methods. Insulation, for example, has a more positive effect reducing middle- and high-frequency sounds, but less of an effect on low-frequency sounds. As a result, additional barriers to sound should be incorporated into your laboratory design—like our MS Bench.

With its integrated vacuum pump enclosure, this dedicated lab furniture provides a 75 percent reduction in noise, with a guaranteed sound suppression of 15 dBA. By integrating our benches for mass spectrometers into your new lab design, you will create an additional sound barrier. Coupled with the insulation of modern staggered-stud walls, our dedicated lab furniture ensures that your new lab is as quiet as possible, with no sound carryover from mass spectrometry research taking place in adjacent rooms.

New lab design should always incorporate the results of proven research, whether it involves structural advancements, instrumental improvements, software or even furnishings. Dedicated lab furniture is worth the investment in a quieter lab; request a quote today to learn more.

 

Mass Spectrometry and LC Troubleshooting for Lab Safety

QuietBench_TroubleShooting So how can you tell if something is wrong with your mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography systems? We talk a lot about lab safety in general, but in this post we’re focusing on troubleshooting—because it’s critical to catch performance issues before they reach the level of a lab safety concern. Additionally, you don’t want to waste precious time and samples performing tests when your MS/LC systems aren’t working properly. For these reasons, it’s key to regularly evaluate your equipment and know what to do when something appears “off.”

Begin with the Lab Safety Basics

A good way to begin any inspection is with a visual overview of the entire system. You want to make sure everything looks normal. Does anything look out of place? Are there any leaks, or misaligned connections between the MS and the LC?

Of course, making these types of evaluations is a lot easier to do if you can get up close and personal with your machines, which is why we created our adjustable HPLC-UHPLC cart. It can easily be raised or lowered, allowing you to bring all parts of your system to eye level.

Break Down the Liquid Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry System

Next, you want to “break down the system” into its component parts—specifically mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography. For the LC, you want to watch the standard mixture separation, checking pressure traces and flow measurement, and running an injection check. You can isolate problems to one of a half-dozen areas:

  • Columns
  • Autosampler
  • Valves
  • Tubing
  • Injector
  • Pump

With mass spectrometry, the critical issue is infusion. You want to watch the voltages, detector signal and vacuum gauges. (Since we trust you are using our dedicated MS lab bench, with its vacuum pump enclosure that provides 75% noise reduction, you probably won’t notice any noise changes in the vacuum pumps.) Here, you can isolate the problem to:

  • Ionization or source
  • Calibration
  • Detector
  • Vacuum
  • Mass analyzer

Utilize CIV

CIV is short for “compare with installation values.” The engineers who install your instruments are some of your best lab safety allies because they know more about your equipment than anyone else. In addition to keeping track of installation values, make friends with your installers, ask them questions, and see if they will give you a copy of their own troubleshooting manual or other documents that aren’t normally given out to customers.

Specific things to pay attention to at the time of installation (and to record for future reference) include:

  • Vacuum settings (for all regions, when possible)
  • Voltage readbacks (copy screen shots of acceptable values)
  • Mixes as tuned for use (including sensitivity, resolution, stability, mass calibration, S/N)
  • Listing of best practices for auto-tune or calibration
  • Chromatographic performance (pressure range, peak width, RT stability)
  • Clear descriptions of error log messages
  • PM schedule recommendations for your specific use patterns
  • Recommendations for finding spare parts
  • Restrictions on solvent usage, pH values, etc.

Employ System Suitability Protocols

One helpful way to prevent lab safety problems and ascertain test parameters for mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography applications is to develop a system suitability protocol. This will help you monitor any changes that occur in your hardware or software. Analysis of a known sample provides data which can easily be compared with prior readings using a logbook that tracks prior performance, problems, and solutions.

Specific metrics for LC performance include retention time, peak shape, and chromatographic resolution; for mass spectrometers, you want to check sensitivity/response, mass accuracy, and precision. Always use the same method for LC and MS, and monitor metrics variability over a number of injections. Poor system suitability data should be kept to assist in troubleshooting future performance issues.

Enhance Your Lab’s Efficiency

We believe that optimal performance depends upon keeping instruments well calibrated and constantly monitored. We also believe that dedicated lab furniture will help you extend the life of your instruments and keep them performing at their best. For more information on our lab benches, contact us today.

 

Keeping Tabs on Trends in Laboratory Design

QuietBench DesignDesigning a new lab is an exciting adventure. Innovation is a constant in modern labs, so lab design must keep pace. Whether you’re constructing a new laboratory from scratch or transforming existing facilities, your design must take many things into account, from work styles and collaboration to building security, safety, and even the furniture used by different researchers.

Here are some of the latest trends in new laboratory design projects.

Getting Together

Long gone are the days when investigators labored away in solitude. Today, collaboration is the name of the game. This means you need to create “social buildings” that foster connection, with meeting spaces and break rooms where researchers can socialize.

While this once might have been a foreign concept—perhaps even anathema to managers who were afraid that researchers would not get as much work done—today we understand that successful scientists need to learn from what others are doing. Even a pair of window seats in an atrium can provide just the place for bouncing ideas off of each other.

Collaborating over research also means creating labs that allow entire teams to work together. For lab design professionals, interdisciplinary research units require attention to new kinds of concepts, including flow and circulation patterns of researchers. Offering group-based offices and write-up spaces also provides enhanced opportunities for the team to move forward.

Another way researchers are getting together is through “open” rather than “closed” laboratory layouts. This means creating a laboratory design that allows researchers to share dedicated lab furniture, equipment, and support staff, as well as space. When offices are moved over to one side, meetings can take place while others are working in the lab space itself. While not every type of research—or researcher—can handle such an open-concept workspace, most lab designs are no longer created around the constellation of a single principle investigator.

Preparing for Change

Of course, all this innovation and collaboration can result in a higher rate of change, which means laboratory design must be more flexible than ever. Whether the goal is easy expansion, being able to accommodate new equipment, or efficiently changing configurations in order to accomplish new tasks, labs are increasingly being designed for maximum adaptability.

As a result, they tend to be more generic, with flexible engineering systems (to address evolving safety issues), equipment zones that can be modified during the build-out phase (to keep pace with change in a typical three-year building process), and mobile dedicated lab furniture that can easily be transferred from one lab to another.

High-quality bench space is also critical in any lab design, because modern experiments are equipment-intensive. Safely stacking both equipment and supplies requires high ceilings and flexible shelving, while safely operating that equipment requires good lighting and attention to appropriate sprinkler system coverage.

Lab Design with the Computer in Mind

The pace of change in modern labs is due in large part to the exponential growth in computer usage. Thus any laboratory design must incorporate the use of technology. Building-wide wiring and cabling provide for collaboration, but must also retain sufficient flexibility to allow for configuration changes within individual labs. Virtual labs are also becoming more common. Whether you’re using telerobotics or virtual reality, modern lab design must be prepared to accommodate those evolving needs.

Within individual labs, specialized benches and workstations must maintain ergonomic standards even as they also support heavy and technologically sophisticated equipment. Dedicated lab benches such as ours include lockable hardware enclosures, monitor arms, and keyboard drawers to accommodate the technological needs of the modern lab.

Integrating Dedicated Lab Furniture into Your New Lab Design

Naturally, we’re keeping an eye on these lab design trends, because our goal is to create lab benches that will meet the need of any modern laboratory design now and in the future. And because IonBench lab benches reduce lab mass spectrometry noise, they also foster better communication and collaboration within the lab. To find out how our dedicated lab furniture can meet your lab’s needs, contact us today.