Four Laboratory Equipment and Technology Trends
Technology trends can greatly increase the capabilities of the laboratory. Innovative technology and methods allow laboratory technicians and scientists to work more efficiently and accurately than ever before. Advances in communication and efficiency increase the speed at which work can be done along with the cost required. Here we highlight some of the most popular upcoming trends in the field.
1. Smaller lab equipment
Lab equipment is getting smaller and smaller. This saves a lot of shelf space! New technology could do this by eliminating a series of pumps and valves that were once required to store samples properly. Now, we have fluidic components capable of integrating multiple laboratory functions into a single ‘chip’, saving bench space, manpower and money.
Even samples are becoming smaller. New technology has allowed us to store smaller amounts of required samples. These technologies have enabled the transition from individual test-tube sample storage to multiple small wells in microtiter trays. New technologies have also eliminated the amount of contamination that can occur during sample collection, by means of introducing collection with a small valve; this valve cuts off fluid between pouring samples thus limiting carry-over.
2. Utilizing cloud technology
New lab equipment has the capability to record data and submit it to the Cloud. Similarly, the equipment can alert a scientist or lab tech when something goes wrong. A controlled laboratory environment is a very important factor that requires careful monitoring, an uncontrolled environment can negatively impact the results of an experiment. Even a miniscule change in temperature can be enough to alter results if not fixed immediately. Freezers can now alert the responsible party on their smart phone if there is an unexpected change in temperature. It also allows people the ability to monitor a study via their phone or computer from any location. Eighty-one percent of researchers have said that this was a great benefit to their work.
Cloud technology allows scientists the ability to share their findings sooner than they’ve ever been able to before. Data can be uploaded to and accessed by multiple project contributors using Cloud technology, and this includes people in different laboratories. Work can now be done from different locations. This ability to communicate increases productivity, and it allows people to easily work collaboratively.
Automation of lab equipment is not necessarily new, but the technology is advancing and spreading across more fields than ever anticipated. As the technology grows, we are gaining more and more flexibility in function and application, meaning a single machine is now able to complete many different tasks.
Automation eliminates a lot of the time consuming, repetitive experimental steps, which, in the past, would have been manually performed. Results can now be generated in a fraction of the time that they used to take! This new-found time allows laboratory technicians the ability to focus their critical thinking skills on the analysis of data, rather than spending time recording data.
Automation can be used in a number of different areas including:
Different automation tools are being used to aid scientists throughout the entire research process extending to even meet needs outside of the laboratory.
4. New sustainability options
Growing environmental concerns affect all fields of work, including scientific research. Unfortunately, research laboratories use about five times the amount of energy, per square foot, as a regular office space. The equipment and unsocial hours use up a lot of resources. Luckily, advancements have given scientists ways to be as efficient with resources as possible.
Labs all over the world are utilizing new ‘open labs’ that allow researchers to share equipment and resources in the laboratory. Equipment is extremely expensive and open labs allow access to many people at a reduced cost to both the scientists and the lab.
Recycling — a simple concept, yet it can easily be over looked. Recycling is a great option for laboratories to wisely dispose of used containers and equipment given that they are following environmental, health and safety guidelines. Buying items made from recycled materials keeps the cycle going. Plus, recycled materials are generally less expensive.
Laboratories have become eco-friendlier by cutting down on how many resources they use. Automation and other technologies increase efficiency, labs can calculate exact numbers of consumables and reagents required to complete a procedure. This reduces waste and saves money.
Another way that labs have been able to ensure that they’re doing what they can environmentally, is by adhering to specific standards. For example, laboratories that qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications demonstrate that they put being resourceful as a top priority. This LEED certification can even allow a laboratory to qualify for extra grants and tax reductions.
Researchers have more access to equipment and a greater ability to collaborate than ever before. By embracing advancements in laboratory automation and through adopting environmental strategies, scientists are able to streamline procedures and cut costs. These advancements are growing in popularity, meaning results are obtained faster, more efficiently, and cost effectively.
McKenzie Brower is a contributing writer and media specialist for One Pointe Solutions.