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What’s Under Your Hood?

February picks for innovative new product introductions made to fit under your hood.

by John Buie
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February 2009 New Products E-Newsletter Editorial by John Buie.

I have to admit that I am a bit of a gear head and really do enjoy talking about cars. So before I started writing this monthly New Products piece for Lab Manager Magazine and LabX I would have responded to the question, “What’s under your hood?” by excitedly listing measurements in horsepower, dynos and RPMs. I definitely would not have answered the question with “new solvent purification systems, wireless remote control vacuum systems and automated pipetting systems,” all of which have been designed to fit inside a laboratory fume hood. However, today these are my February picks for innovative new product introductions made to fit under your hood.

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#1 – Could 48 scientists fit their purple nitrile gloves into your fume hood to pipette samples for PCR prep, MALDI spotting or perform DNA/RNA extraction and be ambidextrously operating a pipette in each hand at the same time? Not likely. (However I would like to see it tried in the Artel Pipetting Olympics this year.) But a new MicroLab NIMBUS system recently developed by Hamilton can accomplish that very thing.

The system uses the same, accurate, 96-channel pipetting head as its highly regarded STAR instruments, yet is designed for small throughput applications. Its dimensions are less than 38 inches long, 20 inches wide and 27 inches high, which is small enough to fit under your hood with plenty of room to spare.

Until this 96-handed Octopus Vulgaris recovers from his repetitive stress wrist injury and regains his pipetting skills, the Hamilton MicroLab NIMBUS is your best bet for 96-channel under hood pipetting.

#2 – If you are looking for a safer method for solvent purification than thermal distillation, there is now a compact solvent purification system from MBraun that can also fit under your hood. It will only purify one solvent at a time, but uses double column filtration to ensure high quality. As long as you have over 33 inches of clearance in your hood, the narrow 10-inch wide and shallow 15-inch deep MBraun MB SPS Compact Solvent Purification unit should fit under your fume hood with ease. To top it off, you don’t have to move it out anytime soon as it comes with a 17-liter solvent keg with quick connects and the columns don’t need to be replaced until 800 liters of purified solvent has been used. When the consumables are made to last 800 liters you know MBraun is focused on value for their customers. They are touting this as the most affordable solvent purifier on the market. So follow the link above to get in touch with them and see if it fits both your budget and your fume hood.

#3 – At a recent trade show I got to spend some time with the KNF Vacuum guys. They let me play with their revolutionary, wireless, remote-controlled vacuum pump that can sit inside your hood and be operated from anywhere within the lab, without even needing to open the fume hood sash. After they patiently explained all of the ‘cons’ of their innovation with me – such as it will not operate my iPod remotely, nor will it allow me to record the hockey game on my Tivo, nor steer my rumba vacuum cleaner from room to room – I did learn how I can use the SC920’s effectively designed remote control’s ‘pros’, such as a touch screen and rotation knob to control all pump parameters, including set point, pressure and suction capacity, and then track all of the process variables on the graphical display located on the handheld unit. But there is one killer feature that should be considered a best practice when making anything for a lab which will a)  fit into a lab coat pocket; b) is wireless; and c) geeks like playing with – When you loose the remote (yes, I said “when.” It is a given. Or need I remind you what your lab looks like), just open up the fume hood, click the “page” button on the vacuum system, and then simply hunt down the audible tone coming from the remote. To quote just about every booth visitor to the KNF booth: “Very cool”. Get in touch with KNF to see if the KNF SC920 Wireless Vacuum Pump should be sitting under your fume hood before the next budget season.