Tag Archives: hplc

Lab Design Tips for a Functional Workspace: Part 1

We all know that a poorly designed engine will not perform efficiently. The same is true with lab design. Awkward layouts, incompatible pieces of dedicated lab furniture, and tight or wasted space can all affect the efficiency of your processes. Here are five lab design tips to create functional lab workspaces.

1.    Get Everyone on Board

No lab is going to function at its best if all stakeholders are not involved in its design. Begin with an all-hands-on-deck kickoff meeting, but don’t let it end there. Keep people at all levels of the organization involved throughout the lab design process. Encourage additional input. In fact, invite staff to think about processes as they work and talk with maintenance concerning what does and doesn’t work smoothly after lab techs have left for the day. Brainstorming new solutions to existing problems can ensure a more efficient work environment for the long haul.

2.    Start Your Lab Design with a Focus on Control Areas

One key component of a successful lab design is appropriate separation of hazardous and combustible materials. List all current chemicals used, but also brainstorm where research and trajectories are taking your lab processes, so that you can control chemical interactions in the future as well as with current projects. Include careful consideration of code and safety requirements as well. Be certain to design storage areas to meet your needs and be sure to purchase sufficient dedicated lab furniture for the safe storage of all types of hazardous chemicals.

3.    Size Your Space to Meet Present and Future Needs

If you’ve ever worked in an older lab, you know how frustrating it can be when the footprint of your equipment has grown, necessitating larger and more complex lab furniture. Often, the space becomes crowded and staff find it difficult to navigate safely through cramped work areas. When creating a new lab design, allow plenty of space for not just any lab furniture, but the latest, safest dedicated lab benches that can account for the maneuvering on heavy-duty caster wheels (such as our IonBenches) for an HPLC or other peripheral machines that are used episodically or need to be repositioned throughout the lab.

4.    Organize Your Space to Ensure Proper Ventilation

Modern HVAC systems can pull quite a bit of air through a space. This can be a boon for proper ventilation—or a nightmare if improperly installed. Make certain that lab pressurization will meet safety standards. Ensure that the location of fume hoods and live flames will not intersect with HVAC systems in such a way as to cause fumes to escape containment, and potentially spread throughout your building or the HVAC system, blowing out or suddenly expanding a live flame, which would result in a dangerous lab accident.

5.    Get a Complete and Comprehensive Equipment List

Another reason for involving all stakeholders in your lab design (see tip #1 above) is the need to get a comprehensive equipment list. Once you know all the equipment that must be place in your lab design, you can design a complete layout and work with a dedicated lab furniture vendor like us to install lab benches and ancillary furniture that will support each workstation in your new lab design.

This is why we encourage you to contact Tim Hawkins now via email or at 1-888-669-1233. He can discuss the importance of consistency provided by installing dedicated lab furniture from a single vendor that will integrate seamlessly to support lab processes.

Also, stay tuned for our next post, which will share five more tips for designing a functional lab workspace.

Keeping Dedicated Lab Furniture Sparkling Clean without Breaking the Bank

There are many ways that you can successfully extend the life of your lab benches. We have made recommendations before about how to properly care for your dedicated lab furniture and regularly clean the benches that hold your mass spectrometer and HPLC. This article focuses on an easy, cost-saving way to regularly clean without needing to purchase a handful of fancy products.

Clean Your Dedicated Lab Furniture Before Every Experiment and After Every Spill

We often hear people saying that time is of the essence — but that doesn’t mean you should skip cleaning your lab benches. Little can be more wasteful of time and money than a contaminated process or lab safety issue. This is why you should clean your dedicated lab furniture before every experiment or new process and after every spill or accident. In other words, as your mother might have taught you, clean early and often.

An Inexpensive Cleaning Solution for Your Dedicated Lab Furniture

While there are lots of specialized sanitizing solutions on the market, sometimes that’s not what’s required to keep your mass spectrometer lab bench properly clean. When it comes to sanitation, sometimes basic, familiar, relatively inexpensive products can do the job of expensive brand name cleaners. In this case, we recommend two diluted solutions: one of bleach, the other of ethanol.

To prepare the solutions, mix one-part bleach with nine-parts water in one container. In a second container, mix seven parts ethanol with three parts water. (You can safely store these solutions for later use, making cleanup a breeze.)

An Easy Process for Cleaning Your Mass Spectrometer and HPLC Benches

Once you have your solutions in place, the process for cleaning is straightforward.

First, if you have long hair, tie it back, out of the way. Also, secure or remove any dangling jewelry and ID lanyards. While these solutions might be simple, they are not necessarily kind to fine metals and plastics.

Second, put on latex gloves (or your non-allergenic alternative).

Third, remove all loose items from the mass spectrometer and HPLC benches. This includes pipettes, test tubes, beakers along with notes, pens, and anything else that has collected on your bench and shouldn’t be on the work surface anyway.

Fourth, take a paper towel, dip it in the diluted bleach solution, lightly squeeze it out, and use the paper towel to thoroughly wipe all surfaces of the bench.

Fifth, take a paper towel, dip it in the diluted ethanol solution, lightly squeeze it out, and use the paper towel to thoroughly wipe all surfaces of the bench.

Sixth, let the dedicated lab furniture dry thoroughly. While you wait, take the paper towel from the bleach solution and use it to wipe the bottoms (and, where appropriate, other surfaces) of those pipettes, test tubes, and beakers.

Seventh, finish the job correctly. Once the bench is dry, return your loose items to the clean lab bench. Close and store your bleach and ethanol solutions for use next time. Dispose of your gloves in a proper container.

Now you are ready to safely begin another process or experiment.

If you have any questions about cleaning your dedicated lab furniture, please contact lab bench expert Tim Hawkins at 1-888-669-1233 or by email.

Five HPLC Penny-Pinching Mistakes to Avoid

Every lab instrument comes with its own special set of instructions. While we recommend paying attention to the cautionary notes when first setting up mass specs and HPLCs, after a while, many labs might naturally begin to cut corners. This is especially true when budget season comes around and lab workers consider the cost of the various columns, filters and buffer bottles. These penny-pinching habits can cause much more expensive problems, however. That is why we thought it was time to remind everyone of five habits you should never develop, and should certainly break if you recognize yourself in this list.

1.    Never Use the Same HPLC Column for Multiple Methods

Let’s begin with the obvious: Don’t use the same column for different methods. Even if both methods call for the same column description, the possibility of carryover remains, even with the best of cleaning. We’ve heard that unimportant peaks from one method have ended up causing problems for a second method, even when the same product is used. Don’t risk the loss of an entire series of processes: use a different HPLC column for each method.

2.    Don’t Finalize a New Method with a Used Column

Yes, sometimes it’s useful to extend the life of a lightly used column by using it for screening columns during method development. However, once you’ve determined the right brand and model, move directly to working with new columns. Part of this is because of the chance for cross-contamination mentioned above. Another possibility is that prior methods can actually change the chemical composition of the used column. This can mean that a new column could prove incompatible with your process once the method of development has been completed.

3.    Never Mix Ion-Pairing and Non-Ion-Pairing Columns

Studies have shown that ion-pairing reagents can never successfully be completely removed from a column, even with regeneration procedures. Longer-chain sulfonates are particularly difficult to remove, even with 100% isopropanol or methanol. As with the caution above, chemical changes to the HPLC columns themselves are likely to take place.

4.    Don’t Top Off the Buffer Reservoir

Have you ever given any thought to how long it takes for microbes to start growing in acetate or phosphate? We hear that wise lab techs don’t use buffer from one bottle for more than one to two weeks. This means that, if you don’t replace the reservoir each time you add buffer, you’re inviting contamination, which is much more expensive than a new reservoir and buffer. Microbial contaminants are especially an issue with UHPLC because the columns use 0.2-μm porosity frits, which can often become clogged by bacteria.

5.    Don’t Throw Away Dollars by Pinching Pennies

Think about it this way: the time, effort, and materials expended in attempting to clean HPLC columns or buffer reservoirs for any reason will far outweigh the cost of new materials. After all, you can get 500 or more samples (some get even up to 1000) from each column before it begins to fail. In contrast, if a lab tech’s time costs the company $50 per hour (which is entirely possible, given the whole package of salary, benefits, training, and time off), the time spent cleaning filters or scrubbing columns is just not worth it—especially if cross-contamination cannot be ruled out.

Another way that too many labs pinch pennies and end up throwing away dollars is by failing to invest in dedicated lab furniture. If you don’t have dedicated lab furniture for your HPLC, this makes reservoir replacement and filling a much more dangerous process. With dedicated lab furniture such as our IonBench LC, you can raise and lower your HPLC with ease, optimizing configurations and preventing falls from stepstools or ladders.

To learn more about how IonBench LC can save you money and ensure lab safety in the long run, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

The Highs and Lows of HPLC Lab Safety

lab-safety-hplcWe’ve all done it. Whether it’s the result of trimming a tree in the backyard or lifting a liter of methanol into the top of an HPLC, at one point or another we’ve all felt the pain that comes with pulling a muscle from reaching higher than we should.

It gets worse, of course, if it happens at work and someone ends up not with just a sore shoulder, but also a workers’ compensation claim. In addition to the lost work time and paperwork, you end up with all sorts of lab safety experts telling you how to do your job and run your lab.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for this. We created our series of dedicated lab furniture to address real-world problems, and this is one of them. Rather than lifting solvents, why not lower your HPLC or UPLC?

OSHA Lab Safety Recommendations

Before we explain our solution, let’s point out that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have specific lifting regulations, but has made some intuitive recommendations about safe lifting practices. It suggests that whenever you need to lift something, you keep the vertical distance between mid-thigh and shoulder height. If you lift that liter of solvent from below your waist, you put stress on your legs, knees, and back. If you lift it above your shoulders, you put stress on your upper back, shoulders, and arms—and it’s just a matter of time until someone gets hurt.

HPLC and UPLC Realities

The problem is that your machines aren’t short. You’re working with HPLCs and UPLCs that can be three feet tall. Add to that the fact that they’re placed on lab benches that are themselves three feet tall, and you’ve got a solvent reservoir that’s six feet off the ground. Unfortunately, most lab techs aren’t retired basketball players who stand seven feet tall. This means many lab techs can’t see into the reservoir, much less safely replenish it with dangerous chemicals.

Everyday Solutions

Lab workers have come up with ways to deal with this, of course. Most often, they use a stool or stepladder. But stepping up on one of those with a heavy glass bottle of solvent puts you in a precarious position, and a slight shift in balance could send everything toppling over, and someone to the emergency room.

Other workers decide to ignore lab safety and simply lift those dangerous chemicals over their heads, inviting a buffered methanol or THF spill to the face in addition to a wrenched shoulder.

An Innovative Solution

For these reasons we solved the solvent lab safety problem at another level entirely. Rather than raising the lab tech to the reservoir level, why not lower the reservoir to the lab tech level? Our IonBench LC elevator benches electronically lower themselves an entire foot, giving a lab tech of average height easy access to the reservoir and a safe height from which to fill it.

An Added Benefit

Our creative solution has an added benefit in addition to lab safety. You want to align your HPLC or UPLC as closely as possible with your mass spectrometer in order to minimize diffusion. Our LC elevator bench rises and lowers in 1-millimeter increments so that you can easily align the effluent point of the HPLC column for the most efficient introduction of your sample to the source of the mass spec.

So if you’re ready to lift—or lower(!)—your lab safety to new heights, request a quote today to learn more about how our LC elevator bench can improve your own lab’s safety and efficiency.

Accessorizing Your Mass Spectrometer or HPLC Bench

dedicated-lab-furniture-accessoriesWe recently visited the IonBench factory and had a chance to see firsthand all the various customizing options for our dedicated lab furniture. We thought that you might also find some of the accessories and options exciting—as well as excellent safety reminders—so we’re dedicating this post to the many different ways you can personalize your mass spectrometer or HPLC lab bench.

The Hole Story

We put a lot of holes in our benches. That might seem odd at first, but the fact is mass specs and HPLCs need a lot of connections. You’ve got vacuum pumps that need hose connections. You’ve got the HPLC waste line. You’ve got all sorts of wires and cords connecting different machines. And you don’t want any of those hoses and wires running down the front of the equipment, where they can get knocked or kinked.

That’s where the holes come in. We drill strategically placed holes wherever the client needs them, so their machines can be connected with optimum efficiency. Locations can vary from client to client; it all depends on how they’d like their labs set up and the model of equipment they are using.

Holes aren’t just for mass spectrometers and HPLCs either. We put a hole in the back of our keyboard drawers so that the keyboard connection to the computer doesn’t get caught in the drawer mechanism. And as we mentioned in a recent post, if you work in an earthquake zone, we can punch strap holes into the lab bench so you can strap down your HPLC and keep it stable during a seismic shift.

Betting on Brackets

Of course, sometimes you need to connect things to the bench, so we’ve got specialized brackets for that. For instance, there’s a bracket to connect a four-inch flexible duct, like a dryer hose, to vent warm exhaust air from the vacuum pumps out of the laboratory.

We’ve also got a bracket that will attach your computer to the side of our dedicated lab furniture. This helps keep your computer up and out of the way so it won’t accidentally get kicked, and also will keep it off the floor in case of flooding.

Pumping Up the Power

As space gets tighter in so many labs, we find our clients squeezing more things onto their dedicated lab furniture in addition to a mass spectrometer or HPLC. We can put eight standard 110-volt, 15-amp electrical sockets on the back of the IonBench, which simplifies connecting to your printer, monitor, and other electronic gadgets.

Various Other Options for Mass Spectrometer and HPLC Efficiency

Of course, that computer monitor needs a safe place to park itself, so we’ve got an adjustable monitor arm accessory. We also have a stainless steel tray with a half-inch lip all the way around it, designed to contain any oil that might leak out of your mass spec vacuum pumps. This is important, as vacuum pump oil can be contaminated by the sample being tested, which may potentially contain hazardous substances.

Lab benches are also work stations, so we can customize the number and size of your drawers, and even attach a lateral desk to create a bit more work space in a tight lab environment.

The bottom line is that we want our dedicated lab furniture to meet your needs. If you can think of an accessory that we haven’t mentioned here, give us a call and let’s talk about adding it to your next mass spectrometer or HPLC lab bench.

Keeping Your HPLC and Mass Spectrometer Safe in Earthquake Zones

earthquake-mass-spectrometer-safeRecently, a client reached out to us and asked how they could keep their mass spectrometer safe in an earthquake. We thought we’d share our answer, as some of our readers and clients—for instance those working in notorious earthquake zones like California or Japan—could no doubt benefit from the advice. While earthquakes are unpredictable and nothing is certain when it comes to protecting your equipment from them, here are our suggestions for keeping your mass spec and HPLC safe if your lab is in an earthquake zone.

Strap It Down

To start with, you can customize any of our IonBenches with strap holes. This allows you to strap your MS or HPLC to your dedicated lab furniture. For straps, you can use a smaller version of the same type of secure, flat strapping material that truckers use to strap down loads. These straps can handle sharp edges to some extent, so you’ll be able to safely strap down your equipment.

Now, the mass spectrometer is a pretty heavy machine with a lower center of gravity, so the chance of it falling off your lab bench, at least in a smaller earthquake, is reduced.

The HPLC, however, is another matter. When you’ve got a 40-inch-tall machine on top of a 34-inch-high piece of dedicated lab furniture, the equipment is standing six feet off the floor. The solvents at the very top, of course, are an additional hazard if they spill or if the HPLC itself topples over. For this reason, we highly recommend strapping down your HPLC if your lab is in an earthquake zone.

Don’t Lock It Up

Another recommendation made to us by some of our clients in earthquake prone areas is to leave the caster wheels unlocked on your dedicated lab furniture.

Naturally, we’ve put locks on our lab bench wheels because leaving the bench unlocked is not a good idea in general terms. If you bump up against a bench while a mass spectrometer is operating, the turbomolecular pump could be damaged, or even blow up. So if you don’t work in an earthquake zone, lock those wheels!

On the other hand, experience has shown that if you leave the wheels unlocked and the floor starts to shift, the bench absorbs some of the energy and moves in opposition to the floor. This means that the energy is not translated up to the instrument and it’s less likely to wobble or fall off.

So if you work in an earthquake zone, you might want to park your mass spectrometer in an out-of-the-way place—but not right up against a wall—and leave the casters unlocked.

Trust in IonBench’s Strength to Protect Your Mass Spectrometer and Other Lab Equipment

Of course, when we build the IonBench, we build it strong enough to sustain a lot of wear and tear. With a tubular steel structure and a work surface that’s over an inch thick, nothing is going to snap or break off should the bench strike any sort of object while it’s moving or if anything lands on it. This provides protection for the rest of your lab during an earthquake.

It’s also another reason to choose dedicated lab furniture for all of your lab equipment, not just the HPLC and mass spectrometer. For more information on our customizable lab benches, give us a call today.