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Access Agilent eNewsletter, July 2013

Automate sample preparation to increase consistency, repeatability, and savings

By Eric Phillips
Agilent Outbound Product Marketing Manager

Figure 1. Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench with WeighStation provides the ability to perform weight-based sample preparation, along with other standard preparation procedures.

Sample preparation is the act of getting a sample ready for analysis. In the case of a chromatography analysis, sample preparation often includes some form of sample extraction, weighing, dilutions, internal standard addition, and even derivatization. Techniques for sample extractions are as wide ranging and varied as the types of samples being tested and the compounds that are present in each sample. That makes sample extraction particularly difficult to standardize. Alternatively, while the other aspects of sample preparation are easily standardized they are prone to errors.

The big question regarding sample preparation comes in two very important parts. First, how do you move from sample extraction to the other steps of your sample preparation procedure and still deliver consistent precision? And second, how do you deliver that consistent precision while cutting costs and minimizing sample preparation time so that your analysts can spend more time on other important tasks and maximize productivity?

Precise, consistent, reliable and safe sample preparation

The Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench with WeighStation (Figure 1) offers an excellent answer to those two tough questions. The Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench combines precision liquid dispensers along with mixing, heating, and optional precise weighing capabilities into a standalone instrument that is extremely precise, consistent and reliable. Not only does the Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench deliver the consistent precision that manual sample preparation can’t deliver, it also minimizes direct exposure to hazardous chemicals. The size of the system allows for all of the sample preparation tasks to occur inside a fume hood, which keeps the chemists and other lab personnel safe.

Comprehensive features let you prepare samples for virtually any analytical technique

Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench maintains consistency and reproducibility day in and day out thanks to a complete set of standard features that can automatously complete many sample preparation procedures. Key attributes include:

  • Large capacity syringe provides capability to precisely dispense liquids into a sample vial for common operations such as internal standard addition, solvent dilution, and addition of derivitizing agents.
  • Bar code reader/stirrer station heats up to 80 °C providing the ability for dissolution or derivitization procedures.
  • Heater/chiller module with ability to simultaneously heat a single 50-vial tray (25 °C – 80 °C) and cool a second 50-vial tray (40 °C – 5 °C).
  • Sample and liquid can be moved from any 2 mL vial at any point, making it easy for the analyst to select the correct liquid phase for transfer operations.
  • Optional microbalance with a five-gram capacity and capable of weighing to 0.01 milligrams tells you the exact weight of any material that is added to the vial and allows for weight corrections making it ideal for ASTM methods that require precision weighing.

Figure 2. The top chromatogram demonstrates the performance of WorkBench with WeighStation for the analysis of FAMEs in biodiesel. The bottom chromatogram shows the same procedure with WorkBench but with manual weighing.

Drag and drop software is easy to customize to your SOP

Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench software automates the system, requires no complex programming, and can run unattended for hours. Plus, it’s intuitive, icon-driven interface makes it easy to customize it to your laboratory SOP. This highly visual “drag and drop” software allows the analyst to set-up and save methods within a matter of minutes (Figure 2). Example customizations include multi-step derivatization processes; barcode scanning to ensure traceability; dilutions to build calibration curves; and optional precise weighing.

Automated sample preparation makes sound business sense

Lab managers know that any innovative solution must also be vetted against sound business requirements in order to be successful. In developing the business case for this product, the following benefits show that this solution meets financial, safety, quality, and environmental requirements:

  • Productivity: Automated sample preparation can save one half hour or more of analyst time per shift which translates to almost 550 hours of labor savings per year (0.5 hours per shift x 3 shifts per day x 365 days per year).
  • Safety: Personnel exposure time to potentially toxic solvents and reagents is typically reduced by more than 75% with automated sample preparation. Reduced quantities used in small scale preparation also limit exposure and reduce risks associated with other solvent properties such as flammability. Ergonomic issues are also eliminated for labs with high pipetting requirements.
  • Quality: Precision of automated sample preparation exceeds the precision achieved by multiple analysts across shifts which improves the quality and reliability of results. The repetitive nature of automation is more consistent than manual preparation which reduces the risk of analyst errors. This in turn lowers laboratory costs by reducing rework and lowers the risk of price concessions for off-spec product due to lab error.
  • Environmental: Small scale sample preparation reduces waste volume which lowers disposal costs. Waste reduction of greater than 50% is typical. This approach also supports green waste reduction initiatives such as CMA’s Responsible CareĀ® program and ISO 14001.

Agilent Sample Prep Workbench provides consistent precision – eliminating errors associated with mundane sample preparation procedures, such as dilutions, internal standard additions, and derivatization. Plus, the optional Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench with WeighStation provides the ability to weigh precision amounts of material directly into the GC or LC vial, allowing for weight calculations required in specific ASTM and EN methods, Figure 2.

See what the industry’s only standalone automated sample prep instrument can do for you

The Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench produces samples that can be used with virtually any instrument from practically any manufacturer. It provides savings for your laboratory by ensuring consistent sample processing and eliminating the need for reinjections due to missed steps in sample preparation process or analyst variability. It uses small volumes of chemicals and solvents, produces less waste, and doesn't require glassware other than sample vials. And it reduces lab workers’ exposure to derivatizing reagents, acids, bases, and other hazardous chemicals. No other instrument can do what the Agilent Sample Prep WorkBench with optional WeighStation can do. Take a moment now to learn how you can put it to work in your lab.

Figure 2.

The top chromatogram demonstrates the performance of WorkBench with WeighStation for the analysis of FAMEs in biodiesel. The bottom chromatogram shows the same procedure with WorkBench but with manual weighing.