Smarter, Greener, and More Efficient
When you think of water purification technologies, you’d be forgiven for not immediately associating them with cutting-edge design. The pure water fueling the vast majority of your experiments can easily be taken for granted; your water purification system is likely out of sight and out of mind, diligently and humbly carrying out its job in the corner of the lab. However, if you look just a little bit closer, it quickly becomes apparent that the system’s great design is precisely what has allowed you to overlook your water purifier—it runs efficiently, quietly, and consistently without hogging lab space, budget, or even energy.
When it comes to removing impurities from water, there’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel. We all make use of powerful, tried, and tested techniques like reverse osmosis, deionization, UV treatment, and of course filtration. With these techniques, it’s possible to produce some of the highest-quality pure water available.
For this reason, innovation has had to happen in other areas of the design process. First up has been reevaluating the components of a purification system—tweaking its innards. Plastics often make up the bulk of a device’s internal parts, as they offer a great combination of flexibility and performance while being economically efficient. In order to improve these, companies have been looking at the injection molding used to produce these plastic components. Adjustments here can lead to substantial design optimizations, resulting in the use of fewer pipework connections, for example, which in turn can result in reduced manufacturing costs. The icing on the design cake here is that better injection molding means smoother internal surfaces, and in the case of water tanks, this means not only fewer crevices for bacteria to hide, but also better mixing dynamics.
It isn’t just plastics, though: There’s a growing drive to incorporate innovative improvements for user interactions in the form of better display technology and even haptic feedback mechanisms. More information and feedback is always a good thing!
Form and function
Labs are dynamic and so is their need for water, utilizing variable volumes depending on the number of members or how productive those members are (or aren’t!) feeling on a particular day. To cope with these changing demands, lab managers usually err on the side of caution and oversupply the lab with pure water rather than risk running out. This can mean large and costly purification systems, generating much more water than ever gets used. Suffice it to say, this is far from efficient.
Related Article: Water Purification Systems: Balancing Performance, Value.
Insightful manufacturers have realized this and have responded with modular water purification systems. With systems like these, it becomes possible to mix and match purification components and accessories, adding or removing additional dispensers, units, or even reservoirs as and when required.
This is not only a great way to future-proof your lab, but it’s also going to have less of an impact on what is already likely to be a tight budget, as there’s no need to acquire the largest possible unit available. Whether you need ten or 100 liters of water, a modular system allows you to accommodate that without oversupplying.
Speaking of limiting aspects, there’s also the space issue to consider. Lab space is always at a premium, and so investing in a modular system means that you make the most of the space you have available. Individual components can typically be stored in separate locations— maybe you have the dispenser on the bench and the reservoir underneath—so you don’t need to sacrifice a great chunk of much-needed floor or bench space.
While it’s not all about looking pretty, water purification systems should still be aesthetically pleasing, or at the very least unobtrusive. A sleek, quiet system that fits into the lab is much more preferable to a whirring behemoth of a machine—especially if you’re the one working next to it all day!
This is a term that gets bandied about a lot nowadays, but it’s worth mentioning just how important it really is. A good system should be intuitive; it should be self-explanatory. Your time in the lab needs to be spent doing science, not wading through an obtuse instruction manual when all you want to do is dispense half a liter of pure water! Great design will take this into account, allowing users to quickly understand what needs to be done in order to get what they need in the most expedient manner.
We’re all much more environmentally aware these days. The manufacturing industry as a whole is slowly starting to accept the need to produce products that have been designed not only to reduce energy usage, but also their overall environmental impact.
This is why environmentally conscious manufacturers have been steadily making improvements, such as matching a purification system’s power supply to a bespoke configuration and the power supply of its destination country. Others are helping reduce the amount of water that invariably goes down the drain during the purification process—something well worth investing time in when you consider that a typical lab may use up to 35 million liters of water every year.
Related Article: Growing Green
Of course, aspects already mentioned here, like modularity and reduced internal components, mean that the environmental impact of the manufacturing process itself can be reduced. Some companies have gone a step further and obtained ISO 14001 accreditation, meaning that they have ensured that their environmental impact is being measured and improved. This means careful selection of materials, manufacturing processes, and the methods by which products are shipped.
The great design nestled in some of the more advanced water purification systems is clearly something that goes far beyond an aesthetically appealing unit. A great design can help you adapt to a lab’s changing needs, address what technology are often tight space and budget demands, and even play a major role in reducing the overall environmental impact. You should therefore keep design in mind the next time you invest in a water purification system!