Lab Armor FAQ – June 20121. Are Lab Armor Beads packaged as ready-for-use?Yes, Lab Armor Beads arrive in a sealed container ready to add to your thermalinstrument.2. How much Lab Armor Beads do I need?Unlike water, Lab Armor Beads don’t evaporate and therefore helps protect againstinstrument overheating and burnout. But, like water, it is important to add a sufficientvolume to your bath to ensure safe operation. An insufficient volume can causeinaccurate thermostat readings, which can result in continuous heating of the bath. Mostwater baths operate properly when filled to 80% full. Use the Lab Armor Beadscalculator on the Lab Armor website to help you determine the optimal volume for yourwater bath.3. How long can I use Lab Armor Beads under normal conditions?Under normal conditions, Lab Armor Beads should last the life of the water bath. Ifused incorrectly, the surfaces of Lab Armor Beads can become damaged, resulting in aloss of fluidity of the bath, but not in thermal performance. We recommend that youavoid strong detergents, acids and bases. Bleach, for instance, may tarnish the surfaceof the Lab Armor Beads reducing its fluidity and overall performance.4. Can I autoclave Lab Armor Beads?We recommend that you avoid autoclaving Lab Armor Beads, unless you autoclave in asealed, moisture-proof container. The high temperature steam can cause the surface ofthe Beads to become sticky, reducing its fluidity and overall performance. Should youneed to disinfect, spray the Beads with 70% ethanol and mix.5. Can Lab Armor Beads be used in a standard heat block?Yes, Lab Armor Beads are compatible with all standard heat blocks. You will no longerneed to buy a new aluminum block when a vessel doesn’t fit. For optimal performance,use a Lab Armor Bead Block with Beads in your heat block.6. What if something is spilled into the Lab Armor Beads?Lab Armor Beads may be washed with dish detergent and water then sprayed with 70%ethanol if necessary. Most importantly, be sure to completely dry the Beads beforeadding back to the water bath, because a combination of heat and water can tarnish thebeads. You can use a mesh strainer to wash and dry. A nylon <1/4" mesh bag workswell, such as a camping stuff sack that you can find at a camping supply store.
7. Do I need to use the water bath instrument cover with Lab Armor Beads?Yes, it is best practice to use the cover whenever possible. The cover allows maximumtemperature range and helps maintain better temperature uniformity. In general, withoutthe cover in place, the surface of the Beads will be slightly cooler due to the movementof cooler air over the bath.8. Do temperature gradients exist in a water bath?Yes, all water baths have hot spots and temperature gradients. The extent of thegradient depends on the design of the water bath. In some baths, for instance, theheating element is small or is not centrally located. In others, the heating elementexpands the entire surface of the bath providing a more uniform heating capacity. LabArmor Beads perform like water and the temperature gradient in a standard water bathis very similar as well, usually +/- 2.5ºC. However, for higher precision applications, theLab Armor Bead Bath performs at +/- 1.0ºC. One advantage of Beads is that a samplevessel can be completely submerged in the beads, eliminating exposure to surroundingair temperature.9. Is my water bath compatible with Lab Armor Beads?Lab Armor Beads can be used with just about any water bath. However, like water, theperformance of the thermal media depends on the design of the bath and the location ofthe heating element. With water, for example, "hot spots" occur in areas of proximity tothe heating element. Some elements are exposed on the bottom of the bath and othersare recessed. Some baths are deep and others are shallow. In a bath with the elementlocated in the center, water and Beads generally produce a temperature gradient of +/-0.25 -0.75 ºC per inch in all directions from the middle of the bath. So, depending on thesize and location of the element, as well as the dimensions of your bath you can gaugethe performance of Beads in your bath.10. How do I keep my Lab Armor Beads shiny and fluid?Normal amounts of precipitation on refrigerated bottles and vials are NOT harmful.However, avoid exposure to a combination of heat and water or reactive chemicals thatoxidized the surface of the Beads. Chemically accelerated oxidation reduces the Beadsshine and more importantly, its fluidity. In general, Beads can last for many years if keptrelatively dry and clean. It can even out-live your water bath.11. Are Lab Armor Beads compatible with most commercially available baths?Water baths from several major US manufacturers, including the Thermo Fisher & VWRbaths have been tested with Beads. Data shows that most baths are compatible, nomatter their age. An exposed or recessed thermocouple does not seem to affect theperformance of the Beads. However, the location and configuration of the heatingelement can make a difference in heating uniformity. Most of the water bath designproblems affecting Bath Armor performance, also affect the thermal performance ofwater. Circulating water baths are generally incompatible with Beads.
12. How do Lab Armor Beads perform under high or low temperatures?Beads have been tested using various water bath models at a range of temperatures. Inmost traditional water baths, the further the set temperature is from ambienttemperature, the greater the thermal gradient will be in the bath. Therefore, at anoperating temperature of 37ºC to 42ºC, the thermal gradient in a common water bath istypically +/-1-3ºC, whereas at 55-65ºC it is closer to +/-3-8ºC depending on the designof the bath and the amount of Lab Armor Beads used.For applications that require greater temperature control, a Lab Armor Bead Bath canbe used. Bead Bath is designed specifically for use with beads, and therefore providesmore consistent, uniform temperatures throughout the bath compared to traditionalwater baths. Thermal uniformity is +/- 0.5ºC at 37ºC13. Are there ways to speed up the heating process with Lab Armor Beads?Incubating:Beads warm 1.25-2.5X slower than water, depending on the volume of the vessel. But,there are ways to compensate for this: • Raise the temperature of Beads • To avoid over-heating, validate the adjusted protocol • Keep the conditions constant from experiment to experimentFor example, to raise the temperature of a typical 500 ml bottle of cell culture mediafrom 4ºC to approximately 37ºC in 30 minutes, traditionally, a 37ºC water bath is used.To accomplish the same results using Beads, the bottle can be submerged in 50ºCBeads for the same 30 minutes, then pulled out and placed onto the surface of Beads.The Bottle of media will remain at 37ºC +/- 2ºC for up to 6 hours until use.Thawing:When a frozen vessel is placed into the bath, the beads surrounding the bottle becometemporarily cool. And if the vessel is large enough, just like a water bath, the overalltemperature of the bath will decrease slightly below the set point and trigger the bath tobegin heating. The cool areas surrounding the bottle will slowly warm up until the bottlereaches the set temperature. Although similar gradients are produced in water baths, ingeneral, the whole bath cools down and re-warms without obvious gradients because ofnormal disturbances and stirrings, as well as natural thermal circulation of water.Instead of always stirring the bead bath, customers can most likely solve their problemwith a simple change in protocol. By allowing frozen vessels to thaw overnight in therefrigerator to 4ºC before placing it in the bath, it will warm quickly in the bead bath andwill not contribute greatly to cooling the bath and disturbing the temperature gradient.
14. Besides keeping the bath cleaner, how do Beads protect samples better thanwater? • Eliminates the possibility of water wicking into the sample • Eliminates cross-contamination from water dripping off a vessel onto other items on the bench when removing vessel from the bath • If the bath is accidentally turned off or loses power, Beads maintains temperature up to 5 times longer than water offering better protection for the incubating sample. • While thawing large vessels, surrounding Beads become cooler rather than the entire bath.15. Is an air-jacketed water bath compatible with Lab Armor Beads?In general, air-jacketed baths provide better overall heat distribution and temperaturegradients. The air jacket that surrounds the tub portion of the bath allows the heated airgenerated by the heat element at the base of the tub to also warm the walls of the tub.Since bead baths primarily rely on heat conduction (heat transfer by contact), baths withheated walls transfer heat to the beads from 4 directions. Baths without air jackets lessefficiently heat the beads from the bottom only.There is another potential design problem with some non-air-jacketed baths. If thebaths heating element is not recessed below the tub, but it is instead fixed to the tub bymetal-to-metal contact, the base of the bath can become very hot in areas wherecontact is made. This produces hot spots on the bottom, which results in unevengradients in the bath. Small sized heating elements that only cover a small portion of thebase of the tub makes this problem worse. Such baths produce hot spots even whenwater is used. If you are experiencing problems with your non-air-jacketed bath, as analternative to buying a new bath, simply add a container of beads to your laboratoryoven or incubator. A container such as a stainless steel pan with 3-4" walls can be filledwith beads and placed into the heating unit. The container of beads will work great witha minimal gradient. Such a container can be added to a standard incubation oven, a cellculture incubator, or a refrigerator for cold incubations.16. Can Lab Armor Beads be used for an ice bath without the Chill Bucket?There are a number of different ways to use Beads. Many customers place containersof Beads in their refrigerators, incubators and ovens.When creating an ice bath, one goal is to keep the beads dry. So it’s a good idea toseparate the beads from the ice packs, which accumulate condensation. Werecommend using some kind of mesh wire or fabric. Also, any condensation that buildson the surface of the beads will be able to drip through the mesh. It’s important to keepthe beads from soaking in water for extended periods of time. Besides attractingcontamination, excessive water contact will tarnish the surface of the beads and reducethe fluidity of the bath. Also, as an alternative to ice packs, dry ice can be used to makea colder bath (<0 ºC).
17. Are the Beads safe?The Beads do not contain any dangerous elements that will contaminate yourenvironment or pose health risks. The Beads are manufactured and batch analyzed bymetal optical emissions spectrometry. Lab Armor maintains strict quality controls on allits raw materials and manufacturing outcomes. The Beads are designed to be usedsafely at both low and high temperatures. For more information on safe workingtemperatures of Lab Armor Beads, refer to FAQ #20 below or contact technical servicesfor specific recommendations.18. How can samples be shaken or agitated in Bead Baths?A shaker unit is still required for large bottles or flasks that need high rpm agitation,such as 250 ml flasks for bacterial cultures. But for low speed agitation, a standardlaboratory rotator (such as a Lab-Line Maxi Rotator), a Bead tray, and a general-useincubator, can replace a shaking water bath.Here’s how it works: Option 1) Samples are added to a StayTemp tray that is placed atop a rotator inside a standard laboratory incubator and agitated at the desire temp. Option 2) Warm Beads from a Bead Bath can be scooped into an insulated WalkAbout tray and samples can be rotated on the bench top, outside the incubator for 0.5 to 1 hr at temperature. We can provide larger insulated trays for bottles and flasks too. In an incubator, the Beads actually transfer thermal energy more efficiently to the samples than by air alone. And the Beads stay at temperature ensuring consistent incubation despite folks opening and closing the incubator door repeatedly.19. Is the Lab Armor Bead Bath Available in 220v?Yes. 220v units are available in 6L, 14L, and 20L Bead Bath sizes.20. What is the working temperature of Lab Armor Beads?For best performance use Lab Armor Beads at an operating temperature from -80 to180ºC. However, product may be used up to 300ºC without loss in thermalperformance, but product fluidity may be reduced. Please contact technical services forspecific recommendations.21. Can I try the 200 ml Test Drive in my water bath?No, you will need to use a heat block. Add the sample to your dry bath by replacing oneAluminum block. Allow the Beads to warm, monitor temperature, then add samplevessels of various sizes and shapes. Try nonwater-tight vessels, such as petri dishesand multiwell plates. Bury a microfuge tube containing a liquid such as water into theBeads. Note that by eliminating exposure to surrounding air temperature, condensationdoesn’t accumulate under the lid.