27 Mar

Consumer Drones

So, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year, you could not of helped to hear about the future of delivery and surveillance that we will be in our lives in the near future.  Actually, I guess this is already happening.   And for those of you,  like my wife, (sorry honey), who aren’t really sure what a “Drone” is,   we’re talking about those small, unmanned aircraft.  And why have I brought up this topic you may ask?  When you think about it, there is a lot of controversy behind it.  From a guy’s perspective, they’re cool toys.  Expensive, but cool.

Now, I’m not really addressing the ones being used by the armed forces.  Undoubtedly, they help to save lives of our troops in an effecient way.  I’m sure there’s an argument behind this statement as well.

1385947944000-AmazonPrimeAir2I was thinking more about the role that retailers like Amazon are taking.  For me personally, I feel this is great concept.  Logistically can this really happen?  I mean, are flying package drones going to collide with themselves or worse, aircraft?

An Amazon photo showing a test of package delivery by drone(Photo: Amazon)

This seems to be something taken right out of the cartoon, The Jetsons, that we use to watch on Saturday mornings.  And bottom line, do we really need delivery within the hour?

I welcome your feed back.

Stephen Gonshorek

20 Mar

Teaching Children to Have Grit

Teaching our children to have grit.  No, this has nothing to do with our kids playing out in the sand and mud.  I happen to hear this very interesting story on NPR (National Public Radio).  At first I had visions of the old movie “True Grit” with John Wayne

(photo courtesy of IMDbPro)  

True GitWell, it ends up that I was on target.  There’s a movement in several of our school systems that have created programs for kids, to basically teach them to deal with rejection, failure and to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”.

I personally understand the concept as relating to my own kids.  We all want to see our children succeed in their studies, careers and life, in general, but if we always “baby” them, how are they supposed to deal with stress and adversity in their adult lives?  So, does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?   Again we’re defining grit as persistence, determination and resilience.

According to NPR, even the Obama administration is now on the “grit” bandwagon. A 2013 report from the Department of Education states that kids are learning to “do school,” but aren’t learning the skills they need in life.

The other side of the coin are those who feel this is just another fad in education that will soon “burn itself out”.

I welcome your feedback on this very interesting topic.

Stephen Gonshorek

13 Mar

3-D Printer Helps Baby Breathe

mottnhp01-3106278890-o_new-57cc4bbe2d26787a8c4f9cf8c7b86c62afba585f-s2-c85Picture of baby Garrett and His Mother Natalie Peterson,  courtesy of NPR.

On my way to work this morning, I was Listening to this incredible story on NPR about Garrett, who was born with a defective windpipe.  Apparently, Garrett was born with a defective windpipe. The condition, is called, tracheomalacia.  In Garrett’s case, his  left trachea is so weak that it takes very little for his trachea to collapse, causing him to stop breathing.

Garrett’s parents were able to connect with Dr. Glenn Green fromt he University of Michigan.  Scott Hollister, a biomedical engineer, runs the University’s 3-D Printer, was able to create a splints to hold open little Garrett’s windpipe.

garrett005-cc6213cb95fd193d5b2973f77781c87780bb3d14-s3-c85Pictured right is a model of Garrett’s trachea, along with splints similar to those used in the operation. Picture provided by Juliet Fuller/University of Michigan Health System.

Doctors were able to make a replica of Garrett’s windpipe from a CT scan.  The comparrison was made of a tent that one might use to go camping, that keeps falling down.  The splints were able to keep Garrett’s windpipe open.    A frustrating part of the story was that the device did not have FDA approval.  Hats off to Doctor Green and Scott Hollister for convincing the FDA to issue an emergency waiver.

Long story short, little Garrett has responded very well to the surgery.  He is still on a ventilator but his prognosis for a healthy future is very promising.

Wondering if anyone else happen to hear the story.  It made me think of all the babies who probably did not survive in the past.  It made me think how wonderful and cool technology can be.

Stephen Gonshorek

22 Feb

Do You Need Your Lab Water Deionized (Softened, Polished)?

From Thermo Scientific

From Thermo Scientific

Perhaps all your lab needs is deionized water.  Or you would like to use DI water as feed water for further purification.  There are cartridge deionizers which are simple to install and require little maintenance.

Ion exchange in water treatment removes monovalent ions from water such as Na+, K+, and Cl; divalent ions such as Ca2+ and Mg2+; and other polyvalent inorganic ions such as SO42− and PO43−.  These ions contribute to the conductivity of water and the removal of these ions is necessary to produce the resistivity necessary for ASTM type II and type I water.Ion exchange resins are tiny synthetic beads which have hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxyl ions (OH) on their surfaces.  As the water passes across these beads the H+ is exchanged with the positive ions in the feed water and the OH is exchanged with the negative ions in the feed water.  The replaced OH and H+ combine to produce H2O while the larger ions are bound to the resin beads.

From Thermo Scientific

From Thermo Scientific

Cation exchange resins remove the positively charged ions and anion exchange resins remove the negatively charged ions.  Eventually all the binding sites on the resin are filled and the resin has to be regenerated or replaced.  In the case of a home water softening system the cation exchange resin can be regeneratedby passing a concentrated salt solution through the resin.  Laboratory water purification systems use a mixed bed ion exchange cartridge where both cation and anion exchange resins are present so regeneration is not practical and the cartridge must be replaced.

Mixed bed ion exchange is very efficient at removing dissolved inorganic ions and produces water with >18 MΩ⋅cm resistivity.  To produce Type II or type I water ion exchange must be used with other water purification technologies.  Ion exchange does not remove particles or colloids (filtration), it does not remove organics (distillation/reverse osmosis), and pyrogens or bacteria (reverse osmosis/ultrafiltration).

Robin Prymula

20 Feb

Wireless Weather Stations

Professional Weather Stations for use in schools, labs and industrial applications.  This instrument is designed to monitor conditions, forecast weather, and check environmental air parameters.  The unit displays temperature, humidity, dew point, barometric pressure/pressure trend, weather forecast, wind direction/speed, wind chill, rainfall amount, and clock/calendar.  The model displayed on the left has a serial data output which  permits linking to a computer for storing all information.  Stored data  can then be placed into a permanent weather database for  generating analysis, and studying weather trends.

A complimentary instrument in the study and monitoring of Meteorology is the Anemometer/Thermometer which measures air velocity and temperature.  Readings are updated instantaneously and has a memory function which will recall the highest and lowest readings.

OpticsPlanet offers these and similar tools which prove to be beneficial for use in both the laboratory and classroom environment.  Though I’m sure the novice hobbyist would also find them both educational and entertaining.

Please feel free to contact any of our knowledgeable staff for additional information or for assistance in selecting the best weather station for your needs.

Stephen Gonshorek

17 Feb

An Easy Start to Pure Lab Water

Where do you start for a laboratory water treatment system?  Especially if you have a small laboratory.  Initial water treatment in the lab could start with a water pre-filter to remove particulates followed by a reverse osmosis system.  This is a simple way to have Type III water which is suitable for many of your laboratory procedures.  RO water can also be feed water for Type I ultra purification systems.  Reverse Osmosis removes >94% of dissolved ions and >99% of suspended solids, bacteria and pyrogens.  Reverse osmosis produces Type III water ready for further purification to Type II or Type I water. The amount of contaminants removed depends greatly on the feed water for the RO system.

From Inspectapedia.com

From Inspectapedia.com

Osmosis is the tendency of water molecules to move across a semi-permeable membrane from the purer side of the membrane to the less pure side; this is how cells exchange water and nutrients.  Osmotic pressure is the pressure of the water molecules on the membrane from the purer side.    In reverse osmosis pressure is applied – greater than osmotic pressure – to the less pure side of the membrane forcing water across the membrane and leaving behind most of the inorganic ions and other contaminants.

Particulates, dissolved organics, and Chlorine are damaging to reverse osmosis membranes and many RO units have a pre-filter and an activated carbon filter.  Reverse osmosis has a slower flow rate than other water treatment technologies so it is necessary to store the RO water in a tank.  A pump may also be necessary to provide the required flow rate from the RO tank to subsequent water treatment units.

RO is a good first step in a water polishing system; the quality of RO water protects polishing systems such as deionizing cartridges.  RO water quality is sufficient for many routine laboratory needs.


Robin Prymula

13 Feb

Brushes for Cleaning Test Tubes

4831777The right tool for the right job!  Test Tube Brushes seem to be one of those items you don’t really think about until you need it.  I recently received orders from several labs.  In each case, the tech ran out or had used the last remaining brush they had, beyond the life of the bristle.  Needless to say, I end up placing some rush orders, which prompted me to create this blog as a friendly reminder to those of you who haven’t checked your stock of brushes in a while.

Standard lengths range from 8″ to 13″ with brush diameters from 3/4″ (1.9 cm)  to 1-3/8″ (3.5 cm).  Though there are longer and wider brushes available, including beaker and centrifuge brushes, which I’ll address in a future blog.  Choice of bristle’s are nylon and natural and most come in packs of 10, which should keep you going for awhile.


Again, these brushes are ideal for cleaning test tubes and narrow mouth glassware. Rounded tuft at tip facilitates cleaning and protects the glassware.

The brush pictured to the right is an example of a test tube brush that has a Tufted End.

Stephen Gonhorek

10 Feb

Your Lab Water is Important

What type of water do you need in your day to day lab work?  Water types used in the laboratory can be Type I water, Type II, Type III – determined by the levels of impurities.  If you are washing glassware, autoclaving, or you need feed water for other purification systems, Type III water is appropriate.  Type II water is sufficient for your test methods where the presence of bacteria will not interfere, or for microbiology where your preparations are to be sterilized.  Type I water is necessary where the presence of small amount of bacteria and endotoxins will interfere with your work

From Thermo Scientific

From Thermo Scientific

and where the presence of  small amounts of electrolytes will cause interferences.

Here are some useful definitions:

Particulates – suspended particles which could be debris from piping, sit, colloids. . . this is what will make water turbid, cloudy.  Microfiltration, distillation, and reverse osmosis will remove particulates.

Resistivity (conductivity) – The tendency of the water to conduct electricity in the absence of added ions.  The unit for resistivity is megohm-centimeter or MΩ-cm.  Units for conductivity are microSiemens/centimeter or μS/cm another unit is the reciprocal of ohms, the mho; 1 mho/m = 1 S/m.  A measurement of dissolved inorganics, largely Calcium and Magnesium which make hard water, although other inorganics such as Sodium and Chloride can be present as well.  These can be removed by deionization or to a lesser extent by reverse osmosis.

From Elga LabWater

From Elga LabWater

Total Organic Carbon – Dissolved organic molecules measured in parts per million, ppm, for feed water and parts per billion, ppb, for treated water.  The organic molecules come from decayed plant and animal material, pesticides, plasticizers from piping, and other sources.  Carbon filtration, distillation, as well as UV oxidation can remove dissolved organics.

Microorganisms and endotoxin – Bacteria enter the water treatment system through feedwater and by exposure to air.  The system must be designed to inhibit growth of the microorganisms.  Endotoxins are molecules released by the bacteria or produced when the bacteria dies.  Both Bacteria and endotoxins are removed by distillation and ultrafiltration at point of use.

ASTM Standards for Reagent Water

Measurement (Unit)                       Type I                   Type II                  Type III

Colloids – Silicia/μg/ml                   <3                          <3                          <500

Resistivity (MΩ-cm) at 25° C         >18                      >1                         >4

Total Organic Carbon (ppb)           <50                       <50                       <200

The ASTM standards are further subdivided into A, B, and C.

Measurement (Unit)                                                     A                            B                            C

Heterotrophic Bacteria Count (CFU/ml)                10/1000               10/100                1000/10

Endotoxin (units per ml)                                             0.03                      0.25                      n/a

Robin Prymula

06 Feb

Vortex Mixers


A Vortex Mixer is actually a simple devise found in most laboratories. The phrase “Shaken not Stirred” comes to mind, though not sure how functional this would be for your next cocktail party. All kidding aside, it is designed to mix small vials of liquid. It consists of an electric motor, vertical drive shaft and a rubber cupped piece which is mounted slightly off-center. As the motor runs, the rubber piece oscillates rapidly in a circular motion. When you touch the vial or container to the rubber cup, the motion that is being created is transmitted to your container, creating a “vortex”.

The mixer is commonly found in most bio-science labs. Cell culture and microbiology labs will use the device to suspend cells, whereas a biomedical or analytical lab would use it to mix reagents and assays. The analog vortex mixers have a variable speed control from 300–3200rpm, which allows low rpm startup for gentle shaking or high-speed mixing for vigorous vortexing of samples. Units can be operated in touch mode when depressing the cup head or in a continuous mode.8082784

Muiltitube Vortexers, like the one pictured to the right, are designed to hold up to 50 tubes at one time. The top of the tubes are held securely, while the bottom are allowed to move freely. This vortexer is supplied with a foam rack to accommodate 12mm tubes. There are foam racks for other tube sizes that are readily available as an accessory.

Stephen Gonshorek

03 Feb

Beer’s Law

No it’s not a law about beer as in ale. Beer’s law, or the Beer-Lambert law describes the relationship between absorbance of light by a substance, the distance the light travels through the substance, and the concentration of the substance.


Where A* is absorbance; e is the molar absorptivity of the substance in L/mole cm; l is the length the light travels through the substance in cm, l is generally 1cm; c is the concentration of the substance in moles/L.  Colored solutions absorb in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum but proteins and DNA absorb in the ultraviolet region.

From Columbia University Science Teacher Program
From Columbia University Science Teacher Program

Absorbance is a unitless value so we refer to absorbance units.  If e is known, the concentration of a substance in solution can be determined. An unknown concentration may also be determined by comparing the absorbance of a known (standard) concentration of the substance with the absorbance of the unknown concentration.

For sample determinations a standard of known concentration of the analyte of interest is prepared and the absorbance is determined.  The absorbance of the unknown sample is then determined.

A Std      A Unk

Conc. Std   =  Conc. Unk

The response of absorbance vs. concentration is linear through 2 absorbance units but above 2 absorbance units linearity falls off.  Samples and standards must be diluted so that absorbance falls between 0 and 2 absorbance units.

Absorbance can be measured using an instrument as advanced as a double beam scanning UV/VIS absorption spectrophotometer or as simple as in colorimetry. The principle of absorbance is also utilized in other instruments such as HPLC and LC detectors.

*A=-log(I/Io) where Io is the initial intensity of the light beam and I is the intensity of the light beam after passing through the sample.

Robin Prymula