Monthly Archives: May 2016

Mass Spectrometry: Ending the Baseball Steroid Era?

?????????????????????????????????????????????Spring is in full swing and the crack of the bat can be heard in baseball fields around the country. As the country’s attention once again turns to the “boys of summer,” we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the continued growth in the number and types of uses being found for the faithful—and increasingly sophisticated—mass spectrometry machines. You see, catching cheating players at their underground steroid game can go a long way toward bringing back confidence in America’s favorite pastime. It can also prove, once again, that the mass spectrometer is a jack-of-all-trades, with unlimited potential in improving the quality of our lives.

Stopping the Steroid Game

As any baseball fan knows, keeping steroids out of the game has become a major issue for Major League Baseball. It sometimes seems that the possibly offending baseball players are always one step ahead of the drug testing protocols. However, the latest improvements in anabolic steroid testing may even out the race and potentially put an end to the “Steroid Era.” Researchers at both Purdue University and Beijing’s Tsinghua University are using tandem mass specs for reactive desorption electrospray ionization.

The breakthrough is occurring on multiple levels: speed, diversity and sample size. This new protocol can test one sample per second, allowing research labs to keep pace with any testing procedure. That one-second test can also identify a full seven different types of steroids, widening the “strike zone” for catching cheating players. And finally, only a single drop of urine is needed to perform these tests.

Mass Spectrometry Advances That Are Under the Radar

Of course, catching dishonest superstar athletes will make headlines. But there are other excellent mass spectrometry uses being developed and refined as well. Here are a couple more impressive things biology researchers are doing with mass specs these days:

– HIV Research: With mass spectrometry, increasingly larger molecules are being completely analyzed today, including proteins, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. Recently, virologists were able to use mass spectrometry to increase their understanding of how the human immunodeficiency virus goes about assembling itself once it has invaded a host cell. We expect that this understanding will be an important step in determining how to prevent the virus from taking over cells in the future.

– Monitoring Anesthesiology: One of the many bodily functions that must be monitored during surgery is the respiratory quotient. Calculating the volume of carbon dioxide produced, divided by the volume of oxygen consumed, allows anesthesiologists to determine whether patients are getting sufficient oxygen—and eliminating enough carbon dioxide—during surgical procedures. Mass spectrometers can measure the metabolic gas exchange taking place in patients undergoing surgery, allowing oxygen flow to be adjusted with confidence.

Dedicated Lab Furniture for a Better Workplace

These are just a handful of the exciting developments happening in mass spectrometry. We’d love to highlight what your lab is doing, if you want to let us know. Meanwhile, keep your mass specs working smoothly and your lab conversations at a reasonable volume by investing in our dedicated lab furniture, which muffles MS vacuum pump sounds by a full 75 percent. That way, in addition to enhancing your lab’s safety and efficiency, you won’t have any trouble listening to this summer’s baseball games if your workload keeps you in the lab for a few extra hours.

 

Lab Safety: Does Your Lab need to Install Noise Warning Signs

Hazardous Materials SignNoise is never good in a laboratory. We’ve discussed on numerous occasions the damage noise can do to hearing and the lab safety concerns brought about by not being able to hear what co-workers are saying. Fortunately, with dedicated lab furniture like the IonBench MS keeping vacuum pump noise at bay, and other noise reducing techniques, lab noise isn’t often above danger levels. But every rule has an exception. When workplace noise exceeds certain levels, warning signs are required to alert workers and visitors of the risks they face and remind the use of safety equipment. Here’s a primer on when signs are needed and what they should say.

When Are Lab Noise Warning Signs Necessary?

Again, severe noise levels aren’t usually encountered in the research lab, and it would be wasteful, and potentially detrimental to your safety efforts, if you were to post signs when you didn’t need them. However, labs are constantly changing, and it’s important to monitor the level of additional noise that’s brought into your lab by each new piece of dedicated lab furniture or equipment—for instance, a fume hood.

OSHA requires posting signs when workers in your lab could potentially encounter sustained noise at the level of 85 dBA or more. As we’ve noted in previous posts, “dBA” stands for a weighted-average decibel level; you can learn more about decibels here.

What Type of Lab Safety Sign Do You Need?

Once you’ve determined your lab or other workplace environment is loud enough to merit the installation of signs, there are two types of signs to consider. A “Caution” sign is required by OSHA for noise levels of 85-100 dBA, while a “Danger” sign is required for noise levels of over 100 dBA. Furthermore, noise exposure above 103 dBA requires a sign that demands double hearing protection.

But you can’t just write “CAUTION” on a large piece of paper, tape it to the wall above the offending machine, and call it good. Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) specify particular colors and symbols that are needed for each lab safety sign, according to ANSI standard Z535.1.

The Caution sign must use a yellow background. The word CAUTION can either be in black letters or be yellow against an inverted black outline, while the explanatory words below are in black on a yellow or white background. Also, the sign must list the reason for caution; in this case, “hearing protection required.”

A Danger sign, on the other hand, must say DANGER using red, white, and black, and must state the reason for the danger, like: “High noise area, ear protection must be worn.”

Where Must the Sign Be Placed?

These signs should not be posted above the machines making the noise. The reasoning here is that by the time a worker sees a sign, their ears are already being damaged.

Instead, all signs must be posted outside the entrance of the lab or workplace where the noise exposure could occur. They can be on the door, or on the periphery of the door, but they should be visible at the entrance, before the door is opened and the noise exposure begins.

Reducing Noise with Dedicated Lab Furniture

No question, lab safety is a complex, dynamic undertaking—especially when dealing with noise—but protecting the ears of all lab workers is worth it. That’s why we suggest you invest in our dedicated lab furniture, which reduces MS vacuum pump decibels by 75%. Request a quote today to learn more.

 

 

Lab Design Tips that will Save You Energy and Money

HVACWhether you’re retrofitting an existing lab or constructing a new laboratory building, there are a number of elements which must be considered in every laboratory design project. One of these is how much energy the lab will consume, and what can be done to keep costs down without jeopardizing the work being done. Here are some energy-saving lab design tips that can impact the bottom line while allowing any lab to perform perfectly.

Getting a Lab Design Handle on HVAC

By far the most expensive energy guzzler in most labs is the HVAC system. In any lab design, the heating/ventilation/air conditioning system must provide comfortable, clean air to every room in the building at all times. This can mean completely changing out all the air in the entire facility as much as twelve times per hour—as opposed to the standard four times per hour of a more typical office building.

Naturally, doing this takes a lot of energy, but there are ways to decrease the cost. Most lab HVAC systems can be programmed for different volumes at different times, so if your lab doesn’t operate on a 24/7 schedule, you can decrease the air cycling rates when the building is unoccupied. More sophisticated HVAC systems can also perform real-time air quality testing, which allows the system’s computer to increase rates when air contaminants are present and decrease them when the air is testing clean.

Preventing all that Conditioned Air from Escaping

Another energy culprit in many labs is the fume hood. Because this piece of dedicated lab equipment vents air to the outdoors, it also whisks away that carefully cleaned and cooled (or heated) air from the HVAC system. Fume hoods themselves also take energy to operate—as much as three residential home energy systems, in fact. You can therefore save energy on both your HVAC system and your fume hood by training lab workers to always close the sash when the fume hood is not in use.

Factoring in the Human Element

As noted above, tackling energy savings is often related to addressing the attitudes and practices of lab technicians. For example, you can save up to thirty percent on the energy bill for your ultra-low temperature freezer by upping the thermostat by just ten degrees, but you may first have to address your researchers’ fears of sample damage. Teaching techs to use task lighting, and to turn out the lights at the end of the day, may seem insignificant, but it can reap major rewards when the energy bill arrives each month.

It’s also true that you often have to invest in your energy savings up-front, during the laboratory design process. When considering the cost of a lab design or retrofit, you may need to advocate for a more expensive, air-monitoring HVAC system in order to save energy costs in the long run. You should also invest in dedicated lab furniture that fully supports your lab equipment and allows it to run most efficiently. Our MS lab benches filter out vacuum pump noise, making for a quieter and safer lab, take up thirty percent less space and can even help with your HVAC costs in your new lab design. To learn more about integrating our dedicated lab furniture into your new laboratory design, contact us for a free quote today.