Tag Archives: Mass Spectrometer

Budget-Friendly Ideas for Overhauling Your Mass Spec Lab Furniture

Piggybank and calculatorLab environments are not always easy on furniture. Sometimes laboratory furniture is damaged from harsh conditions and raw materials. Other times, it can become weak and unstable from being moved around and wrestled into complex lab configurations, over and over again.

While we’d all like to replace everything in our labs with the latest and greatest lab furniture for every instrument, sometimes fiscal realities mean that’s just not possible.

Here are three suggestions for upgrading your lab furniture without going over budget.

Adding Casters to Your Laboratory Furniture

Mass spectrometers are heavy. Rearranging your lab can cause damage to these sensitive instruments—not to mention the backs of those who have to lift them. This shortens the lives of the equipment and can cause productivity delays when staff members have to take sick time from work.

If ordering new IonBench dedicated lab furniture (with its accompanying casters) isn’t an option yet, try installing heavy-duty casters on existing lab furniture. Many casters have a weight tolerance of as much as 1,000 pounds, so they should work for most, if not all, of your equipment.

Installing Additional Shelving in Your Lab

One of the common issues many labs face is insufficient storage space. This is a serious problem, especially if you find yourself storing dangerous raw materials on cluttered workspaces.

Rather than inviting serious lab accidents (which can also lead to lost productivity), take steps to create additional storage space in your newest lab configuration.

Sometimes you’ll discover there’s room for an entire new storage unit. Most of the time, however, you’ll need to get creative, taking a hard look at your lab and lab benches to see where you might create room to install additional shelving.

In addition to preventing accidents, clearing your lab workspace provides the added benefit of allowing you to work more ergonomically.

Incrementally Upgrading to High-Quality Lab Furniture

One way to aim for an ideal situation, where your lab is filled with only the safest and most efficient high-quality dedicated lab furniture, is to approach things incrementally.

First, take some time to determine which pieces of lab furniture are the oldest, least efficient, or most dangerous. Perhaps your mass spec lab furniture was bought to hold an older model and now teeters on the brink of collapse with the heavier weight or broader footprint of a more modern or complex instrument. Or maybe your HPLC lab bench can’t be raised or lowered, making for difficult servicing.

In such cases, investing in a single IonBench during each, or every other, budget cycle can gradually modernize your lab with safe and efficient equipment. Heavy-duty casters come standard with our mass spec lab furniture, making benches easy to move around the lab. In addition, IonBenches house three drawers for easily storing materials that are not in use.

Our HPLC bench also comes on casters and can easily be raised or lowered with the touch of a button, allowing you to safely adjust height in order to maintain solvents or inject materials into mass specs with a maximum of efficiency.

For more ideas to help you with your lab upgrading needs, contact us today.

 

Miniaturization: The Future of the Mass Spectrometer?

mass-spectrometer-miniaturizationIf you work in mass spectrometry, chances are your lab is a popular place. Anyone and everyone is sending material back to your lab for analysis—and of course, they all want the results yesterday.

This is why researchers around the world are working on ways to shrink the various mass spectrometer components, with the hope that someday investigators can actually take an MS with them into the field.

Why Miniaturization?

That portability is a key factor in the drive to make the mass spectrometer smaller. Evidence can be collected quickly, but then it must be sent back to a lab, where it sits in line with all the other samples waiting to be tested. However, if investigators can bring an MS to each site and run the analysis right there, then ideally there should be no laboratory backlogs.

Another advantage to “downsizing” the mass spectrometer is that a tiny, low-voltage gas ionizer would be able to work at much higher vacuum pressures. This minimizes the need for a vacuum pump. Meanwhile, vacuum pumps themselves could be reduced to the size of a chip, which decreases both energy consumption and the cost of production.

Lowering the cost of the various mass spec parts is another advantage of miniaturization. Batching microfabricated components can drop the cost of a mass spectrometer from thousands to hundreds of dollars, making it economically viable as a handheld tool in the arsenal of every investigator and technician.

This could also lead to the introduction of mass specs for uses that have been cost-prohibitive in the past, such as monitoring air quality in commercial buildings on a wide-scale basis.

What’s Happening to Make This Dream a Reality?

Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about this evolution in mass spectrometry if there hadn’t already been work done in this area.

Triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometers are the workhorses of quantitative analysis. Recently, the first mini triple-quadrupole mass analyzer has been successfully developed, although more work is required before it will be available commercially. This micro analyzer was developed by a team at Microsaic Systems in England.

One big difference between this and other prototypes is that earlier versions have all used ion traps. Another is that the analyzer itself is about a quarter of the size of conventional mass specs. Researchers have proven its capabilities with both single-stage and tandem mass spectrometry. It can detect pesticides at 10 ppb, well within acceptable parameters.

Waiting on the Future of the Mass Spectrometer

Not surprisingly, creating the analyzer is just the first step in a much larger process. The rest of the system must be created around the analyzer, including components for inflow, outflow, and vacuum capacity. This means that, at least for the next few years, full-sized mass specs will still be the best option available for spectrum analysis.

It also means that those larger, noisier vacuum pumps will continue to make conversation difficult in your lab unless you use dedicated lab furniture that includes a noise-reduction enclosure. Moreover, those vacuum pumps will continue creating vibrations that could reduce the performance and useful life of the components in your mass spec, unless you invest in dedicated lab furniture that includes dampening springs.

Investing in the IonBench is one way to ensure your current mass specs will last until the micro-MS evolution is complete. Contact us today to learn more.

Adapting the Century-Old Mass Spectrometer for Modern Uses

mass-spectrometer-drug-discoveryLife cycles of inventions vary widely. Some inventions, like the hammer, prove to be useful for a variety of needs and stick around for millennia. Others, like the 8-track tape, wind up being useful for only a decade or so.

Fortunately for modern researchers, the mass spectrometer appears to be much more akin to the hammer than the 8-track tape. While the technology used to produce the modern mass spectrometer has advanced significantly in the past hundred years, the concept behind the tool itself has not changed, and we continue to discover new ways to apply it to our research.

The Importance of the Mass Spectrometer in DDD

As outlined in a Drug Discovery World article, use of the mass spectrometer in the drug discovery and development (DDD) process has been rich and varied. Many of the early efforts were associated with drug metabolism, pharmacokinetic, and pharmacodynamic studies. Twenty years ago, the focus was on using the mass spectrometer to characterize compounds from libraries, determine purity, and perform high-throughput screenings.

As a result of the success of efforts with proteomic and metabolomic profiling, all the major pharmaceutical companies purchased the latest mass spectrometers and developed a cadre of in-house technical experts.

More recently, the use of the extremely sensitive Accelerator-MS has meant that the in vivo metabolic distribution of a drug can be readily determined with minimal exposure levels of the radioactive compound.

The Importance of Truly Understanding the Mass Spectrometer

Researchers have predicted that even greater breakthroughs are just around the corner—and sometimes they’ve been right. It is critical, however, that researchers understand their tools, and this is as true of the mass spec as it is of other complex modern technologies. The tool is only useful in the hands of a trained operator. In DDD, for example, this means understanding that there is an inherent limitation in the mass spectrometer’s dynamic range, which can affect a differential sample analysis.

Fortunately, the pharmaceutical sector has learned valuable lessons and re-evaluated and refocused the role that the mass spectrometer plays in the DDD process. Just as a hammer is not useful to cut wood, it’s important to understand the limitations and capabilities of mass spec instrumentation, software, and firmware. For example, when using proteomic and metabolomic approaches, researchers must ask a specific biological question that requires a defined answer.

DDD professionals have realized that the mass spectrometer can continue to play a major role in certain areas of discovery and preclinical processes. They also now understand, however, that there is not much of a role for the MS to play in clinical development.

This is true in part because most of the research community applies different standards to the interpretation of data. Pharmaceutical companies, meanwhile, must ultimately satisfy stringent FDA regulatory requirements, and even MS/MS data analysis programs will not provide information that is completely accurate. There are ways to alleviate the shortcomings of the mass spectrometer, but this requires that researchers must be realistic in their expectations and practical in their decision-making processes.

Of course, the mass spectrometer is also only as good as the lab bench on which it sits. If the lab bench isn’t strong and stable enough, and doesn’t vent the hot air generated by its vacuum pumps, the mass spec could malfunction and one’s research would be made meaningless.

To make sure you’re using the best tools possible in the best way, contact us today to learn more about our dedicated lab furniture.

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.

Safely Quieting Mass Spectrometer Vacuum Pumps

safely-quiet-vacuum-pumpsOne of the most difficult items in a lab to quiet is a vacuum pump. You just can’t wrap one of these units in foam. One, it’s not going to get much quieter, and two, the foam might melt, catch fire, and the entire machine—even your lab—might be lost.

This is why it’s so important to always use quality, dedicated laboratory furniture for housing your MS. While the noise can prevent safe conversations and cause hearing loss, as we’ve explained in earlier blogs, mass spectrometer vacuum pumps don’t have to be a safety hazard in your lab. Just as your MS is the solution to many research dilemmas, the IonBenchMS is the solution for safely keeping vacuum pump noise in check.

More than Just Insulation

Quieting a vacuum pump involves more than a quick trip to the hardware store, or stealing the nice quilted insulation from around the dishwasher in a home kitchen. Even if it was possible to make the vacuum pump quieter with a home fix-it remedy, there would still be no easy way to access it for servicing.

And service it will need. You have to check the oil levels regularly, and from time to time you’ll need to change the oil as well.

Besides, a vacuum pump also requires air space around it and proper ventilation.—not just for the prevention of fires, but because the pump won’t function properly if it’s too hot.

Dedicated Mass Spectrometer Laboratory Furniture

This is why well-thought-out dedicated lab furniture like the IonBench solves the vacuum pump noise problem so efficiently. By isolating the vacuum pump within a well-integrated, well-insulated enclosure, we make certain the pump is operating properly while still keeping noise to a minimum.

The IonBenchMS has a mass spectrometer vacuum pump enclosure made with fire resistant foam and other materials that can withstand temperatures of up to 40 degrees centigrade. These materials are also oil resistant, ensuring that cleanup will be easier if there’s a spill when you’re checking or replacing your oil.

The enclosure contains enough access ports, channels, and slots for all the power cords, connections, and hoses that come with operating a mass spec. And since ventilation is critical for safe operation, the IonBench’s ventilation design regulates air flow around the vacuum pump, removing hot air and keeping the pump operating at a nominal temperature.

One Additional Safety Measure

In addition to ensuring the proper ventilation, using the correct materials, and providing convenient access for all the hoses, connections, and cables researchers will inevitably need, we’ve also added a failsafe feature to our dedicated MS laboratory furniture.

It’s a sensor that indicates when the temperature within the enclosure, for any type of reason, reaches the failure temperature of the vacuum pump. When that critical point is reached, the lab bench will set off an alarm, alerting technicians to a problem long before the research—or the machine itself—is lost.

So treat your mass spectrometer right. Contact us today for more information and answers to your questions about how dedicated lab furniture can reduce noise and improve safety and reliability in your laboratory.

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.