Monthly Archives: June 2015

Tips to Make Your Lab Benches Last

lab-benches-maintenance-tipsResearch labs are harsh places. Chemicals, heat, heavy equipment, even fire and gases can take a toll on your lab furniture. Just because you’ve invested in lab benches and dedicated lab furniture that’s resistant to harsh treatment doesn’t mean these specialized laboratory items will last forever. Like any piece of lab equipment, they need proper care and regular maintenance to provide maximum service. Here are some great tips to both maintain your laboratory furniture, and protect it when accidents do occur.

Durable Doesn’t Mean Impervious

Most lab benches, including IonBench products, are constructed with an epoxy resin countertop. These rugged countertops are resistant to chemicals, moisture, and fires, and are tougher than many metals. However, they still require care in order to maintain their shine and resistance—and they are vulnerable to scratching.

Therefore, bear in mind that cleaning liquids and supplies containing abrasives may scratch or dull the surface of your lab bench’s countertop. This means you need to avoid certain brands of abrasive cleaners, such as Soft Scrub and Comet, and never use most scouring pads. You also need to avoid wax or any polishes that contain wax.

Regular Cleaning Is Important

Periodic maintenance should take place in your lab, both on a daily basis and either weekly or monthly, depending on the level of use. For daily cleaning, we recommend mild dish soap. We also recommend that you use chamois cloths, as they are both gentle and very absorbent. However, rags and towels will also work.

For your weekly or monthly cleaning, we suggest that you maintain the surface with a light application of mineral oil. This will restore the luster of the resin surface of your lab furniture. You can also use a product like Murphy Oil Soap, but whatever oil you choose, make sure to use a small amount, otherwise surfaces will appear dull or hazy over time.

Apply the oil to a rag rather than the surface itself, and rub the oil into the countertop with a circular motion. Wipe away excess oil and then use your chamois to restore the countertop’s shine.

Handling the Inevitable Spills and Scratches

Lab benches are designed with accidents in mind, but how you clean up afterward does matter. Always clean spills immediately; the longer a spill is in contact with the countertop, the more chance it has of staining the surface, possibly even cracking it.

Always start with the gentlest cleaning method, which usually means soap and water. If you have a major spill, clean it up ASAP. Avoid highly volatile cleaners such as acetone or paint thinner. You may not wish to see these compounds in your spectra, especially if you are using an open air ionization source.

Countertops can also be marred or scratched. Because epoxy resin is so hard, most metals will leave a line or mark (which is usually darker and smooth to the touch) if they are pulled across the surface.

Removing these marks should be as simple as using one of the cleaners above, combined with some energetic rubbing. Remember to start with the weaker cleaners, and only use acetone if needed. If you need a scrubbing pad, use a white Scotch-Brite® Light Duty pad, and never use it dry.

Epoxy resin countertops can be scratched by harder metals and sharp edges. Unfortunately, an indented scratch (which usually appears lighter and can be felt when touched) is permanent. The good news, however, is that scratches will not hinder the performance of the countertop in any way. You can attempt to color in the scratch with a permanent marker, but the color and sheen will be different.

Extending the Life of Your Lab Benches

Purchasing dedicated lab furniture is an investment in the quality of your research and the safety of your lab. Caring for the work surface of each lab bench is a critical part of this investment. Take the time to clean and maintain your lab bench countertops, and please contact us with any questions you have about dedicated lab furniture.

Using the Mass Spectrometer to Further Forensics Investigations

mass-spectrometer-investigationsThere’s no question that the use of mass spectrometers in forensic science is expanding rapidly. GC/MS devices are responsible for providing critical information in many areas of criminal investigation. This includes analysis of body fluids and hair samples to test for the presence of drugs or poisons, testing of sports figures for doping, the examination of compounds left behind after suspicious fires, investigations of bomb fragments, and the detection of organic compounds through pyrolysis.

Sometimes, however, the mass spectrometer plays a role far beyond these fairly standard uses. These a growing number of these stories in the annals of criminal justice. Here are two unusual applications of the mass spectrometer in forensic science.

Nuclear Bomb Testing Brings About a Positive Result

Following the horrors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. scientists rushed to learn more about this genie they had removed from its proverbial bottle. Knowing they couldn’t put it back, they realized that extensive testing would be required in order to prepare for a potential war with the Soviet Union.

As a result, the U.S. (and the Soviets, too) undertook a number of above-ground nuclear tests. Prevailing winds then spread the byproducts of those tests across the globe, without regard for international borders.

This meant that everyone alive after these tests has received small, but measurable dose of the radioactive isotope carbon-14, which commonly lodges itself in people’s teeth. As a result, now a mass spectrometer can run radiocarbon dating on a tooth sample of someone alive during the post-nuclear age and determine their approximate birth date with surprising accuracy.

This can be very useful in missing person cases when remains are discovered. In one such case, a human child’s skull was found in a river in 1968 but police had very little to go on and many missing person cases to consider. The skull sat in evidence for 41 years until scientists using the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating process were able to determine the approximate year that the child had been born. This was a key component in identifying the remains, eventually closing a cold case that had been unsolved for almost have a century.

O.J. Simpson and the Mass Spectrometer

A much more famous case where the mass spectrometer played a key role was O.J. Simpson’s trial in the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. One important question in the case was whether police had tampered with evidence in any way.

The FBI research lab used tandem mass spectrometry, along with LC, to test whether blood-stained articles found at the scene were contaminated with the blood preservative EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid).

In addition to proving that the evidence had not been tampered with, the mass spectrometer proved its value in providing clear and credible evidence for criminal investigators. Scientists at Cornell University put it this way: “The question of blood-evidence tampering in a criminal trial has led not only to improved analytical techniques for the determination of EDTA, but also to the demonstration that a relatively new technique (MS/MS) is ready to be used as credible evidence in the courtroom” (Analytical Chemistry 1997, 69, 477A-480A).

What’s Next for the Mass Spectrometer?

As these examples show, there are always new forensic uses being found for the mass spectrometer. Perhaps your lab is also working on important breakthroughs in forensics or criminal investigation.

As manufacturers of dedicated lab furniture like the IonBench MS, we recognize that test results are only as good as the technique and accuracy underlying them. Our MS lab benches quiet vacuum pumps while removing excess heat and vibration, thus keeping your mass spectrometer operating in peak form and enhancing lab safety. For more information on our custom design options, contact us today.