LabRATS: Best Practices—Chemicals—Spectroscopy


Alternate methods to wet chemical spectroscopy

Problem: Manual wet chemistry methods are slow and use a lot of reagents, creating a lot of waste. Automated continuous flow analyzers (CFA) methods are fast, and still generate dozens to hundreds of gallons per year of hazardous waste, they are expensive ($30,000-80,000), and they require a dedicated staff to operate and troubleshoot.

Solution 1: There are two alternate technologies that may be faster or simpler, and use less chemicals. Discuss with partner labs or colleagues. Discrete analyzers have become highly automated and are flexible for a variety of analyses. They can be sensitive down to micromolar concentrations. Many large labs with high throughput are switching over to these machines.

Benefits: Higher sample productivity, low waste volume.
Costs: Also very expensive, depending on the model. Requires expert operation and maintenance.

Solution 2: Batch chemistry in 96-well microtiter plates read on an absorbance plate reader.
Benefits: Very small chemical usage; plate readers are often available as a department resource. There are many methods developed to convert from CFA to microplate methods. The instrument and methods are easy to use and suitable for unsupervised undergraduates.
Costs: Absorbance plate costs balance out reduced chemical costs, There is some development time, detection limits may not be as low as CFA methods. Filters may need to be purchased for each method.

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