At the Lab, we have several instruments that require proper laboratory conditions and safety equipment. Lab conditions can mean a number of things depending on the instrument, but here’s a quick idea of some of the things that are often required:
- Stable temperature
- Clean air, positive pressure
- Ventilation of fumes
- Fire Safety Cabinets
Our Lab, Today
We have a small office space that we work out of today. It is a great space, but ultimately, not a laboratory. We do have several pieces of equipment within the space that are currently available:
- One of, if not the only, publicly accessible Scanning Electron Microscopes in the US.
- Optical Microscopy, capable of brightfield, as well as Phase-contrast, and Darkfield.
- Gamma Spectroscopy Equipment
- CNC Prototyping equipment, including 3D printing and access to an Abrasive Waterjet Machining Center.
Our Lab, moving forward
We believe providing access to test, measurement, and analysis equipment is vital to advancing science, whether this is in the context of citizen science or academia. Often times, barriers to carrying out important research involve access to equipment and funding. Our mission is to facilitate that access.
Unfortunately, some of these instruments cannot operate to their full potential, and others not at all, until we meet the requirements necessary to operate the equipment safely and properly. While we have accomplished a tremendous amount by pooling together our knowledge, resources, equipment and tools, the construction of a proper laboratory will require building materials, supplies and consumables for the equipment.
First and foremost, we need to address fume extraction and ventilation.
Scanning Electron Microscopy
Analytics Lounge received a donation of a Leica S430 Scanning Electron Microscope, capable of secondary electron and backscatter imaging, as well as Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectroscopy, from Pumping Station: One, NFP. This enables imaging samples at scales smaller than the wavelength of visible light, as well as determining elemental analysis via EDX.
We are currently unable to image wet organic specimens. Generally accepted laboratory procedures to do so require first fixing the specimen using chemicals such as glutaraldehyde, paraformaldehyde, osmium tetroxide, etc., followed by dehydration in ethanol, critical point drying, and sputter coating. Analytics Lounge already owns a Hummer sputter coater and has a Tousimis critical point dryer on loan. However, fixing specimens safely requires use of a fume hood, as the chemistry necessary is toxic and volatile. We will need to acquire a fume hood and adequate ventilation.
Analytics Lounge acquired a Varian 810 ICP-MS as a donation from the Field Museum. We were told that this equipment is fully functional. It will enable elemental analysis, including detecting trace elements such as pollutants in drinking water or soil.
ICP-MS creates an extremely hot plasma. The machine itself requires significant ventilation. It also uses a water chiller, which produces heat that must be vented. This equipment cannot operate without dedicated ventilation. This must be addressed before we can operate this instrument. Additionally, samples often must be dissolved in acid. Doing this safely requires a fume hood.
Graphite Furnace AAS
Analytics Lounge acquired two Perkin-Elmer graphite furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometers. While neither are currently in a functional state, we have reason to believe that all critical systems in one of them are operational. Remaining work requires obtaining appropriate tubing, graphite tubes, and repairing the drive mechanism of the autosampler. This instrumentation is similar to ICP-MS in that it can quantify the presence of specific elements, which would be useful for trace elemental analysis. Having both ICP-MS and AAS functional would enable confirming results. However, this requires calibration solutions, often made by dissolving the element being measured in acid, and diluting it. This process requires a fume hood. We would also need an analytical balance to measure the mass of specimens and materials used for calibration solutions.