Temperature Control For Distinguished Lab Managers, Pt. I: 4 Factors To Consider
Whether you’re managing routine lab tasks or you’re at the helm of highly demanding applications with
strict requirements and limited samples, you need to make sure you’ve got the right temperature
control solution. Of course, this isn’t news to you – you know that precise control of any application is all
about the systematic sum of its parts.
So today, let’s highlight four distinguishing temperature control factors that’ll help connect the dots to
meeting your application requirements.
Precision temperature control is the sum of four factors.
For straightforward applications, a simple heated water bath will do the trick. But for sensitive
applications requiring greater precision, you’re going to need some form of immersion circulator and/or
integrated bath system.
To choose the best circulator for your specific application, take four factors into consideration:
temperature required, vessel & sample size/quantity, versatility and added functionality.
When thinking about temperature control solutions, you always want to start with your heating
requirements – and these are totally dependent on the application.
For example: For processes like incubation of live cell cultures or food testing (which usually
require temperatures under 100 °C) a compact circulator will work. For material testing or
applications using double-walled reaction vessels, on the other hand, a full-sized unit capable of
higher temperatures would be better suited.
Vessel & Sample Size/Quantity
Knowing the type of vessel to be used, as well as sample size & quantity, will also help
determine the type of temperature control solution you need.
For example: If you’re working with minimal sample throughput and small vessel sizes, look into
compact circulators. For increased sample quantities and larger vessels, you’ll need a full-sized
In today’s busy, multifunctional labs, versatility is the name of the game. To stay agile and take
the long-game approach, choose a system that’s robust and adaptable – in other words, it
should be able to accommodate a variety of processes and sample types. Will you be controlling
internal applications, external applications or both? Your answer to this question will help
determine both the circulator and accessories you may need.
For example, in terms of circulator type: Compact circulators have their own clamp or bath tank
and don’t need to be supported, but may be limited to internal applications. Most full-sized
circulators, on the other hand, can control both internal and external applications – either by
placing it directly into a fluid bath by an adjustable bridge (internal), or by circulating with an
integrated pump to another source (external).
For example, in terms of accessories:
- Plastic bath tanks for applications up to 100 °C
- Stainless-steel bath tanks for applications up to 200°C
- Different types of tube holders for different types of test tubes
- Microspheres (also known as floating globes, beads, balls or micro-balloons) made of solid or hollow glass, plastic or ceramic to help maintain temperature uniformity for open fluid baths – forms a floating lid.
While a versatile system keeps you agile and adaptable to any process or sample type that
comes across your lab bench, added features and functionality will achieve safer, more
- Standard options include programming capabilities, adjustable safety circuits and the ability to optimize the unit to different thermal fluids.
- More advanced options include portable units, serial interface converters (e.g., USB to RS-232) and timer functionality.
- Wireless control options – quickly becoming part of standard integration nowadays – allow the unit to be controlled from a distance, like when it’s placed in a fume hood or biological safety cabinet.
As a lab manager, thinking about temperature control is a huge part of your job – and there are strategic and not-so-strategic ways to go about it. There’s much more to consider, so stay tuned for the part II in our “distinguished lab managers” series, where we’ll distinguish between open bath units and closed bath systems with highly dynamic temperature control.