Combining a hotplate and a stirrer opens a wide range of added opportunities. Today’s advanced hotplate stirrer, says Michael Williams, president of Scilogex (Rocky Hill, CT), includes “microprocessor technology for accuracy and precision with independent digital control of both heating and stirring.”
That digital control, says Tanecia Spagnolia—commercial manager, Americas, at Thermo Fisher Scientific (Waltham, MA)—can provide temperature adjustments of a tenth of a degree, and it maintains the stirring rate and temperature more accurately than did the older devices. As an example, she points out the Thermo Scientific Super Nuova+.
Some simple features mean a lot. In Phil Baran’s group at The Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla, CA), graduate student Julian Lo uses the RET control-visc from IKA (Wilmington, NC). “My favorite part is by far the built-in timer,” Lo says. “This may seem like a relatively simple feature, but I cannot stress how useful it’s been.” As he explains, “I’ve recently done a lot of work where I needed to know exactly how long my reaction has been heating— down to the second—and the built-in timer feature not only has been convenient, but has also made my work far more accurate than it would have been otherwise.”
Oodles of options
When shopping for an advanced hotplate stirrer, lab managers must consider many options. When asked about Scilogex’s most recent advance in this technology, Williams points out that the company’s PT1000 temperature sensor provides accurate temperature control, and it’s easy to install and use.
Many of today’s hotplate stirrers provide many features, even at a lower investment. “Researchers can get higherquality hotplate stirrers with more precise control for a price that doesn’t break the bank,” says Spagnolia. “Internal components, such as heating elements and magnetic power, have also improved over time without increasing prices.” Also, advanced models often include a stock temperature probe, instead of making it an expensive add-on.
The improvements in the components can benefit customers through better warranties. As an example, Spagnolia says, “Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a three-year, no-hassle warranty—if your hotplate stirrer breaks, we simply replace it, no servicing or sending spare parts.”
When looking for a new hotplate stirrer, Lo encourages lab managers to look first at the interface. “Make sure that it is intuitive and easy to use,” he says. “Chemistry is already tough enough on its own, so removing any potential source of daily frustrations is essential.” Next on Lo’s list is durability, because scientists often use hotplate stirrers around the clock.
After his top-two tips, Lo says that you should ask around. “A lab manager should talk to the scientists and figure out exactly the types of experiments that they’ll be running daily,” he says. “If they need to closely monitor the pH of buffered systems, for example, then make sure it interfaces with a pH probe.” If experiments require adjustments in the middle of the night, a remote-control feature comes in handy.
Williams notes a few more features worth adding to your shopping list, including safety features, like an automatic shutoff and being UL approved. For stirring consistency and longevity, Williams recommends a device that uses a brushless stirrer motor.
Buying in bulk can also save money. Spagnolia says that Thermo Fisher Scientific often offers special pricing on bulk sales of hotplate stirrers. That allows a lab manager to more easily purchase as many devices as needed—maybe even one for every lab setup.
With a little research, especially asking around, scientists can keep heated solutions spinning just right.
For additional resources on stirrers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit www.labmanager.com/stirrers
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