Monthly Archives: January 2015

With Customizable Dedicated Lab Furniture You Get Exactly What You Need

custom-dedicated-lab-furnitureAre you setting up a new lab in a tight space and trying to figure out how you can safely position your mass spectrometer, HPLC system, computer, and other peripherals all together in one place? Or perhaps you need laboratory furniture that will ventilate and handle waste? Sure, the typical dedicated lab furniture on the market is strong enough to handle your heavy equipment, but you need it to do much more than that.

This is why we make our IonBenches customizable on multiple levels. Yes, this dedicated lab furniture starts at a standard size, but that’s just the beginning. Here are some of the ways we can easily customize your laboratory furniture to meet your specific needs.

Make and Model of Your Mass Spec and Related Equipment

Let’s start with the basics. Since mass specs are individualized to meet the needs of particular labs and researchers, the furniture to hold them needs to vary significantly also. To adjust for this, we always start by asking about the make and model of your mass spectrometer. That way we know exactly what dimensions are needed for the bench, and the strength required to support it.

Another, related question we ask is the make and model of your vacuum pumps, and the number of pumps you will be using. This allows us to provide an appropriately sized enclosure and correct anti-vibration features for your customized bench.

Data Handling Issues

Next we want to know how you will be handling your data during mass spec operations. Do you simply set up the instrument, enter a sample list on the computer, and click go? Or will you do some investigation of the results and therefore need to spend as much, if not more, time on the computer as you use for operating the mass spec?

If that’s the case, we can include an elevator desk for the computer in order to make use of the area around the lab bench, especially if space is tight. On the other hand, if space conservation is an issue, we can add a tidy little lateral desk that’s safely and securely connected with the bench, to keep everything connected and still give you room to operate.

Additional Space Issues Solved with Dedicated Lab Furniture

It’s not just the computer that’s likely to be an issue if you’re cramped for space. HPLCs may be tall and thin, but you’ve still got to make room for them, get power to them, and often add a sample changer. If you tell us exactly how you want your equipment set up, we will customize the bench to safely hold it all, as well as handle all the power and connection cords that run between each instrument. If you want your sample changer to be mobile, we can accommodate that too.

Ventilation and Waste Handling

Of course, there’s even more to consider when you mentally step back from the instruments on (and inside of) your dedicated lab furniture. In order for everything to function safely, you’ve got to consider how to ventilate the heat generated from those machines. We have efficient ventilation systems that can be customized to the specific layout of your lab, making ventilation a breeze.

And since properly handling waste, when necessary, is essential for lab safety and efficiency, we’re happy to customize our lab furniture to address whatever waste handling concerns you may have. Whether your bench requires a large carboy or something smaller like a solvent waste reservoir, we can equip it to best support your lab.

Oh Yeah, and Sound Suppression, Too

Apart from all of these great advantages, an IonBench also takes away 75% of the noise. Ordinary lab furniture just isn’t able to make that claim.

Customize Your Laboratory Furniture Today

Whatever your particular needs and lab setup, we can customize one of our IonBenches to make everything work together with ease. Contact us today and discover how a dedicated lab bench is worth the investment on so many levels.

Lab Safety and Environmental Noise Issues: More Findings

lab-safety-noise-updatesResearchers are now saying that the most common occupational health issue in the US is noise-induced hearing loss. Around 22 million workers in the US are exposed to hazardous levels of noise in the workplace. The impact stretches far beyond individual personnel, however, as it’s estimated that companies have to spend $242 million every year in compensation for disability related to hearing loss. That’s $242 million that isn’t available to help businesses meet their goals, grow the economy, or make a difference in the world.

The Mechanics of Hearing Loss

You’re probably aware that hearing actually occurs in the ear through tiny auditory sensory cells in the cochlea. These hair cells cannot regenerate once they are destroyed, which means that hearing loss in humans and other mammals is permanent. Hearing loss also comes from a variety of sources, including the “planes, trains and automobiles” that a commuter encounters, and the “social noise” that comes from our car stereos and mp3 players, as well as the machines making noise within the workplace itself.

The Health Impact of Noise and Lab Safety

But noise is about more than hearing loss. Noise leads to a number of important ancillary issues. We’ve written before about how noise can cause distraction and the inability to communicate within a lab setting. This leads to lab safety issues that range from miscommunication between researchers to the inability to hear the popping and cracking noises that presage lab accidents.

The health effects of noise should be of concern to everyone who works in a noisy lab around the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates for example, that in affluent western European countries every year, at least one million healthy life-years become disability-years due to environmental noise. That’s a stunning loss in productivity and quality of life, as well as a major indicator of the importance of issues like lab safety.

Cardiovascular Disease is Related to Noise Exposure

What are the disabilities that are caused by noise? In addition to the mechanical loss of auditory hearing cells, long-term exposure to high noise levels in the work environment (such as a lab) leads to hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Exposure to noise increases both diastolic and systolic blood pressure, increases heart rate, and triggers stress hormones to be released into the bloodstream.

It doesn’t take much to trigger these effects, either. Research studies indicate that the risk of hypertension and even heart attacks increases from 7-10% for every 10 decibels of additional noise level.

Effective Cooperation and Learning are Obstructed by Noise Exposure

The perceived disturbance caused by noise in the workplace has effects as well. If employees are feeling distracted and annoyed by the sounds around them, they will have a more difficult time communicating with each other, possibly leading to the expression of that annoyance with colleagues. When this happens, research projects are hindered, and mistakes can be made because unhappy researchers are less likely to communicate well with each other.

It doesn’t take much noise to cause such problems. The WHO’s Community Noise Guidelines say that teaching cannot effectively take place with a background noise pressure level of 35 decibels. Teaching moments occur regularly in research lab settings, meaning that, in order for lab assistants to effectively learn and lab safety to be ensured, noise levels have to remain at low levels.

Addressing Noise Issues in the Lab with Dedicated Lab Furniture

Clearly it’s important that labs address noise issues. To keep staff healthy, at work (as opposed to being on disability), and communicating and learning effectively, noise levels must be kept low in the lab. This is where dedicated lab furniture is so important. Our IonBench MS is built to contain the noise levels generated by mass spectrometers within our specially designed vacuum pump enclosure. With a guaranteed reduction of 15 decibels (which means a decrease in health risks of 10-15%), your lab will be much quieter, and lab safety will be much less of an issue.

The Evolution of Mass Spectrometry and Dedicated Lab Furniture to Support It

evolution-mass-spectrometry-dedicated-lab-furnitureBorrowing from a different adage, to improve is human. It’s our nature to look for ways to “build a better mousetrap.” One great example is the mass spectrometer, a tool that has evolved from a novel investigative device into a standard industrial diagnostic instrument.

A Century of Investigation

The concept of mass spectrometry was developed more than a century ago, in the mind of British physicist J. J. Thomson. Eventually, he and his assistant performed the first tests of this nature, channeling ionized neon through both magnetic and electrical fields and charting deflection of the particles. In this way, they were able to learn new things about the basic building blocks of the universe.

It didn’t take long for practical applications to appear. In association with the Manhattan Project during World War II, mass spectrometry determined which isotope of uranium was responsible for fission, paving the way for successful atomic weaponry. Peacetime uses soon followed, from analysis in the petrochemical industry to revealing the building blocks of life. Today, the mass spec has made its way into just about every lab in the country, and even television shows such as CSI.

Innovation in the Mass Spec Itself

In the same way that its use has evolved, of course, today’s mass spectrometers look nothing like those early models. In fact, many mid-century scientists built their own mass specs—perhaps believing that they could indeed build that better mousetrap. Certainly, understanding how the machines worked made it easier for scientists to tinker with them in order to achieve the results they were seeking.

Eventually, Westinghouse and Consolidated Engineering Corporation began to create standardized mass spectrometers, but they were huge machines, measuring four to five feet long and two to three feet tall. In the second half of the 20th century, commercial innovation continued in the form of increasingly complex and computerized versions of the mass spectrometer. Today’s machines are much smaller in size but highly computerized, making it easier to tinker with results through the interface rather than by modifying the mass spec machine itself.

A Promising Future for Mass Spectrometry

The uses for this mass spec “better mousetrap” are still evolving. Biochemists and biologists are using mass specs to identify and analyze complex biological structures, including proteins, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates. This is leading to impressive medical breakthroughs and the development of new fields, such as proteomics.

All this work with mass specs has also led to an impressive amount of collaboration within the scientific community. With a professional society that boasts everyone from environmentalists and geologists to astronomers and physicists, mass spectrometry truly impacts the lives of everyone in America, whether they know it or not. A mass spec has even traveled into space!

Making the Connection with Dedicated Lab Furniture

So what does the evolution of mass spectrometry have to do with IonBench? In the same way that the mass spec has evolved over the decades, dedicated lab furniture has also advanced in significant ways. Early labs were set up with whatever furniture was available—often leading to horrific lab safety breaches because the furniture was not suitable for the experiments being conducted upon it.

It didn’t take long for enterprising scientists to begin designing their own lab furniture that was safer to use, often constructing the benches specifically to hold massive machines like those early mass spectrometers. Eventually, commercial vendors like IonBench appeared on the scene, and dedicated lab furniture truly came into its own.

Today, our IonBench is specifically designed with the needs of modern mass specs in mind. IonBench houses the mass spec safely inside the lab bench itself, lowering its inevitable noise by 15 dBA, or better than 75%—addressing another important lab safety issue. Dampening springs also remove vibration, extending the life of the machines on the bench.

This dedicated lab furniture was built to keep pace with the century of innovation in mass spectrometry. Visit the IonBench MS web page today to learn more about how our “better mousetrap” can help improve your lab’s safety and efficiency.

Focus on Lab Safety with Noise Reductions in 2015

lab-safety-noise-reduction-2015.jpgNoise is everywhere in our society today. From car horns on your commute to the music coming from your MP3 player, your ears are assaulted with noise all day long.

Noise is also an issue in the lab. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), millions of workers are exposed every year to hazardous noise levels in labs and other workplaces. Professional organizations are also taking note. For example, the College of American Pathologists now includes a laboratory noise evaluation in its accreditation program’s general checklist. Furthermore, workers themselves are listing hearing loss as one of their major concerns. This means that principal investigators and lab administrators cannot afford to ignore this critical lab safety issue.

Noise Concerns for Lab Safety

While very few laboratories have noise levels that can permanently damage hearing (90db and above), it’s still important to consider the effect that noise has on health in general.

A number of studies conducted in occupational settings show that workers exposed to high levels of industrial noise over several years or more have increased risk for hypertension, compared to workers in control areas. The World Health Organization also published several reports in the late 1990’s detailing the many effects of noise, other than hearing loss. “Among the cognitive effects, reading, attention, problem solving and memory are most strongly affected by noise.”

Consider that many cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago, San Diego and Seattle, have outside noise control by-laws against noise exceeding 60-70 decibels. Yet it’s not unheard of for noise in mass spectrometer laboratories to exceed 70 decibels.

What Are the Problem Players in the Lab?

So how can a lab get so noisy? When you stop and think about it, there are an amazing number of machines making noise in your lab. The obvious culprits include the research equipment: mass spectrometers, chemistry analyzers, cell washers, tissue homogenizers, stirrer motors … the list goes on. Then there is the required lab safety equipment, such as fume hoods and biosafety cabinets. And don’t forget storage units like cryostats, refrigerators, freezers, and refrigerated centrifuges — each has its own fans and compressors contributing to the noise level.

It’s the accumulated effect of all these machines that causes the problem. Just one high-speed refrigerated centrifuge contributes up to 65 decibels of noise, while the mass spec vacuum pumps contribute 70 decibels, and even more when they start up. This means that just these two machines alone can already create a lab safety issue.

The Harmful Effects of Noise

The harmful effects of excessive noise in laboratories are well documented. There is a real safety issue when lab techs and researchers cannot hear each other, or must shout to be heard over the noise. The effects on the ear caused by prolonged exposure to high noise levels include hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ear). However, the effects on staff members go far beyond that. Stress and anxiety can also result from long-term exposure to excessive noise. This can lead to further systemic issues, including high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems.

These harmful effects frequently lead to missed work time and lower productivity, which explains why noise isn’t just a lab safety issue, but also directly relates to the efficiency and productivity of research laboratories.

Solutions to the Noise Problem

There are a handful of ways to address the noise issue. Moving storage units out of the lab itself and into adjacent, well-insulated storage rooms can make a big difference. Also, adding acoustical tiles to the walls and ceiling will help absorb some of the noise from machines that must remain in the lab.

Another effective solution is to isolate those machines within noise-controlling dedicated lab furniture. Our IonBench MS does just that, decreasing vacuum pump noise by 15 decibels so that staff can safely work around a mass spec without damaging hearing loss.

Make 2015 a year you focus on safety in your own lab — contact us today to learn more about how dedicated lab furniture, including the IonBench MS, can help.