New Laboratory Technologies

Laboratory product innovation is moving at unprecedented speed. Nowhere is this more apparent than the product launches and demos showcased at annual conferences such as Pittcon.

This year’s Pittcon 2018 offered a new channel for recognition of product ingenuity and innovation - the Pittcon Today Awards - which evaluated a range of products from portable instruments, time-saving lab innovations, advanced smart devices, and more.

While some of these new products are intended for defined research applications, others are valuable innovations -- technologies destined to help shape the evolving workflows of everyday lab operations.

The Pittsburgh Conference and Exposition (Pittcon) is built around two professional societies, the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (SSP) and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP). The event has grown over the years to become the world’s leading annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

For many years, the historic Pittcon Editor’s Awards served as a forum for recognition of innovation excellence by media professionals around the world. Although these awards were discontinued in 2014, the Pittcon Today Excellence Awards debuted this year, bringing a new an exciting format for recognizing technical ingenuity and brilliance. Awards were given according to ingenuity, creativity, implementation, and projected impact on the industry and scientific public. Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards were given in three sales categories: under 10 M, 10-100 M, and over 100 M.

Several technologies recognized this year may prove to have important impact on general laboratory operations, if not in practice then at least in concept. The full description of this year’s Pittcon Today Excellence Awards recipients can be found on the website.

Gold in the under 10 M category went to Gate Scientific and the Wireless smartSENSE stir bar.

Gate Scientific was founded in 2015 as a company focused on bringing to market intuitive solutions that simplify complex problems. Consistent with the intuitive mantra, the smartSENSE Stir bar is the world’s first temperature sensing wireless stir bar. This RFID enabled smartSENSE device electronically measures the temperature of the liquid in which it is submerged. It relays this information to a digital programmable hotplate stirrer, wirelessly, which continuously self-adjusts to main temperature of programmed settings. Dual sensing elements are used for increased accuracy and a neodymium magnet in an inert EFEP Fluoropolymer provides performance for a broad range of applications.

The first thought that comes to mind with this product is perhaps “of course!” or “brilliant!”. Anyone who has made a solution, sterilized media, or has required strict temperature control during an experiment knows that difficulties associated with the processes.

An invention almost certainly born of necessity, the smartSENSE is a solution to simplify lab workflows and remove cumbersome barriers to lab productivity.

Several additional products emerged at Pittcon 2018 aimed at addressing productivity, precision, and efficiency on a larger scale.

The Axcend Focus LC won Bronze in the under 10 M category as the first fully portable liquid chromatography system.

The mobile gradient LC boasts high sensitivity, minimal cycle time (10-15 min), using >100 times less solvent, and producing less waste than traditional LC systems. The truly mobile capabilities create new opportunities and greater flexibility for remote lab or field applications.

The EDGE sample preparation system won Bronze in the 10 – 100 M category for implementation advanced Energized Dispersive Guided Extraction technology.

The system has reinvented sample extraction by enabling six times faster processing with less solvent usage and considerably higher yields, at a lower cost per unit.

The RotaChrom rCPC and iCPC chromatography systems won Silver in the under 10 M category.

Research Scale and Industrial Scale Centrifugal Partition Chromatography (rCPC and iCPC – respectively) use novel technology which foregoes use of any solid stationary phase (such as silica) to achieve separations yields and purity superior to conventional LC. The result is less solvent usage, less waste, ease of scale-up, flexibility of applications, significant increases in lab efficiency and productivity.

Emerging Laboratory Essentials

While these products may not find homes in all labs – except for the smart stir bar, that thing would be neat just to play with – the trends these products represent are signs of emerging lab essentials and technology innovation. Smart devices that sense changes in the sample or the environment – wireless access that allows monitoring from any location, in the lab and beyond – novel technologies which increase productivity and decrease resource consumption.

Technology innovation will continue to increase the quality and precision of lab operations. Emerging lab essentials will help boost lab performance and efficiency, and potentially offer solutions for addressing the research integrity crises that threaten all labs – no matter the focus or scale.

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