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Protecting Your Lab Instruments by Optimizing Power Sources

Protecting Your Lab Instruments by Optimizing Power Sources

Strategies to supply your instruments with the correct electrical power at all times

Andy Tay, PhD

Laboratory instruments are designed to work within an operational power range, and disruptions to the power supply can affect the functions and lifetime of instruments. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons can lead to blackouts, cutting off power supply to essential instruments like freezers, which affects the stability of frozen samples. Additionally, power fluctuations and spikes may diminish data reproducibility and damage expensive equipment. Here, we will discuss some strategies to supply your instruments with the correct electrical power at all times.

Power backup

Inclement weather, such as heavy rain, can lead to power tripping and blackout. When this happens, it can affect day-to-day lab operations by increasing machine downtime. Further, when refrigerators and freezers lose power, the integrity of chemical reagents and biological samples is compromised. With more machine learning-related research relying on supercomputers, there is an increased risk of power tripping and blackout causing analyses to fail midway, resulting in data loss.


Related Article: The 5 Myths of Power Protection for the Lab


One way to avoid this problem is to get an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that comes with add-on battery packs to adjust the backup time from a few minutes to a few hours. Note that UPS is different from an emergency power system as it provides almost instantaneous protection from power disruptions using batteries. With a UPS, users can continue using instruments even when power supplies are affected. 

UPS is often paired with a power distribution unit that distributes power to multiple devices. The power distribution unit does not generate or moderate power conditions but rather distributes power from a UPS or generator. There are a variety of power distribution units available, with some offering remote monitoring and displaying input and output voltages. 

Power and voltage regulation

All lab instruments have a recommended working power and voltage range and beyond this, the data or the safety of the users is at risk. Additionally, an incorrect voltage supply can damage instruments and void the warranty. This is undesirable because most lab equipment is designed to work for at least five to 10 years, and if the warranty is voided, it can add significantly to the lab expenditure.

To avoid the detrimental effects of high voltage transients and surges—such as from lightning—labs can consider installing a power conditioner to improve the quality of the power that is delivered to lab equipment. A power conditioner can improve power quality by offering power factor correction, noise suppression, and transient voltage spike protection.  

Another option is to purchase circuit protection devices such as circuit breakers. As the name suggests, when there is too much current, the circuit will reliably disconnect the equipment from the power source to prevent damage to the instrument and hazards to users. 

Despite the importance of supplying lab equipment with the correct electrical power, it is often an overlooked area in lab management. The use of specialized accessories like UPSs and power conditioners can help protect the integrity of chemicals, biological samples, and data while extending the lifetime of lab instruments. This can translate to great savings for the lab in the long run.


For additional resources on power supplies, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit www.labmanager.com/power-supplies