How Safe, Efficient, and Productive Block Digestion Works

By Questron Technologies

Problem: Bringing samples into a mineralized state is usually the first step for performing accurate inorganic analysis, aka metals trace analysis. This conversion of a usually non-homogenous insoluble mixture into a representative, homogenous aqueous solution using heat and acids is usually a prerequisite for further analysis work with spectroscopic or chromatographic techniques.

Essential as the sample digestion process is, it has not changed much in even the most progressive analytical labs—even in the recent past that has otherwise been marked with superlative leaps in technology. It still is a largely manual handling process where laboratory personnel are subjected to contact with dangerous acids and throughput and productivity is dictated by the time and motion limitations of a human body. Obviously, much better is not only possible, but much better is a requirement for 21st century labs.

^ Questron’s Vulcan digestion workstation.
^ Questron’s QBlock Wireless.

Solution: Questron Technologies’ Vulcan and QBlock Wireless are examples of two new products that promote safety, efficiency and productivity in block digestion tasks; Vulcan does this by introducing automation of tasks and QBlock Wireless by providing an improved means of user interface control based on the Android Tablet.

Vulcan is a digestion workstation that relieves the analyst from the unending tasks of pouring concentrated acids, volume leveling digestion beakers, transferring liquids, and carrying out sample dilutions. Add to that the precision requirements of these laborious tasks, and the need for a suitable workstation is obvious. Fabricated almost entirely from non-metallic components, this system provides a contamination-free workspace where precise amounts of digesting reagents can be delivered to up to 84 50 ml sample vials in multi steps that are under the control of proven methodology. In addition to that, the key tasks of finelycontrolled block temperature, maintaining cool surroundings while adding reagents, automated post-digestion volume leveling, and transfer of digested solution aliquots into smaller analysis tubes are easily handled with a system like this.

QBlock Wireless, on the other hand, is a cost-effective solution for digesting many samples in a corrosion-free hot block with a fine and uniform control of temperature profile. Questron’s thorough testing of the QBlock Wireless in the past 12 months, both at Questron and at customer sites, has demonstrated its functionality, durability, and ease of use. The use of an Android tablet, loaded with the QBlock application, frees the user from wired connections to the hot block, enabling method creation, viewing, manipulating, and archiving digestion data from anywhere—only the block needs to be in the fume hood, not the analyst. In fact, one such wireless tablet enables control of up to eight blocks, all performing their individual digestions simultaneously.

Recent advances in materials science, electronics, and computing technology can and have removed many undesirable restrictions on how hot block digestions should be done in the future. The digestions will be safer to perform, with higher throughput, and yield more accurate and repeatable results. The capability and the products are here now.

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Categories: How it Works

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Leading Change

Published: October 1, 2013

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