Science in the Classroom: Getting Back to the Lab

August 23, 2012

Science is in demand. According to the National Science Foundation, from the fall of 2000 to the fall of 2010, “growth in first-time full-time graduate student enrollment in science and engineering programs” increased 50%, reaching a new peak. Biomedical engineering appears to be one of the hot spots, experiencing the most rapid growth through the decade. Postdoctoral students logged an equally impressive 45% increase over 2000 enrollments, especially in engineering.

For science students at any level of study, the lab is where the learning is and having a well-equipped lab keeps interest high. Innovative new instruments and enhanced favorites welcome the class of 2016 back to the lab.

Here’s a selection of some of our favorites for the best-in-class lab:

picoSpin -45 NMR Benchtop Spectrometer: This NMR spectrometer is 100 times smaller and 10 times less expensive than any previous NMR spectrometer, making it ideal for classroom use. It is a powerful chemical analysis tool with a resolution better than 60 parts-per-billion.

i-LAB Visible Spectrometer with 10-mm Cuvette Sample Adaptor and Chemistry Experiment Suite: This handheld instrument captures spectra and computes results for easy downloading and reporting.

Sartorius M-Power Analytical Balance:The M-Power balance comes with a variety of built-in application programs that help to simplify routine weighing tasks. Weighing applications include; percent weighing, counting, averaging, mass-unit conversion, & net-totaling/formulation.

Oakton® pH Tutor Benchtop Meter:For quick checks in the classroom or lab, the pH Tutor provides microprocessor-based technology for fast, accurate readings. The large, dual LCD shows pH measurement and temperature results simultaneously.

Zippette Dispenser: Simple and durable enough to use in the lab, field, or classroom. Redesigned twist-to-lock volume adjuster stays secure to ensure accuracy. To dispense, simply set volume, lock in adjuster, then lift piston and push down.

Fundamental Inspection Microscope with Built-In Camera: This fundamental inspection microscope with built-in digital camera extends to 14-1⁄4” (360 mm) to accommodate larger objects such as rocks, insects, and flowers with total magnification up to 40x. Unlike standard classroom microscopes, images are upright and unreversed, making it easier to manipulate specimens on stage. This microscope permits computer connection with supplied USB cable.

 Disclaimer: Cole-Parmer products are not approved or intended for, and should not be used for medical, clinical, surgical or other patient-oriented applications.

Sight-Seeing? Try the Binoculars with Built-In Sun Filter or Compass

June 28, 2012

Planning to go to the mountains this summer on vacation? Perhaps to a scenic hillside retreat or a rain forest or safari? Maybe you’re taking a staycation and doing some obsevation in the local park?

Here’s a cool tool, reasonably priced, that is both sensible and adventurous:

Our Binoculars with Built-In Sun Filter or Binoculars with Built-in Compass. Ideal for vacations, spectator sports, environmental studies, and communication command activities.

The 8 x 40 Binoculars with Built-In Sun Filter help protect against glare during viewing. They have a rugged bright yellow rubber armor housing and are designed with outdoor enthusiasts in mind.

 The 7 x 50 Binoculars with Built-in 360º Compass and reticles provide a quick determination of distance and direction of objects.

Both styles are waterproof and fog-proof to withstand rain and high humidity climates. They feature 27.4-mm long eye-relief to reduce eye strain, twist-up eyecups, individual focus, and magenta-coated lenses for superior image brightness. Order includes nylon carrying case, neck strap, eye-cup and front lens protectors, tripod adapter socket, lens cloth and silicon gel.

Make sure you’re seeing the sights on your vacation, with double-duty binoculars.

Enhancing Efficiency—with a Golden Touch

May 31, 2012

Our India office shares the following success story: Titan’s jewelry division at Hosur now dries gold powder more efficiently with a Fluid Bed Dryer and value-added services from Cole-Parmer.

Customer Snapshot: Titan Industries, the fifth largest integrated watch manufacturer in the world, offers two of the most recognized brands: Titan and Tanishq. Its jewelry division at Hosur, Tamil Nadu, was using a traditional oven method for drying gold powder, which is used to make gold coins.

The process of producing gold coins includes melting gold bars at a very high temperature of 1400 to 1600°C. The gold is then cooled and reduced to gold powder. The powder has a moisture content of 20 to 30%, and needs to be dried with minimal product loss.

Challenge: The company used a conventional oven to dry the gold powder, which was time-consuming and resulted in more product loss than expected. With increased production, they wanted a method that involved scientific instrumentation.

Solution: Titan approached Cole-Parmer. Our application specialist suggested the Fluid Bed Dryer. If the powder was pre-dried in an oven, samples could then be loaded into the Fluid Bed Dryer. To counteract product loss, the application specialist recommended that the Fluid Bed Dryer be fitted with 500 mesh (30 µm) stainless steel inlet and outlet filters.

Up to 2 kilograms (kg) of powder can be dried easily in this unit, which has a maximum tub size of 5 kg. Because the samples expand during drying, it was suggested the tub be filled only up to a third of its capacity. Also, due to the low density of gold powder, the user should maintain low velocity to minimize loss and control the powder flow. The drying time may be slightly increased, but this method would prove more efficient than using a conventional oven.

With this customized solution and the complete Fluid Bed Dryer System, Cole-Parmer enhanced the company’s efficiency with a golden touch of service.

Maximizing Food Safety

May 24, 2012

Foodborne pathogens are the silent interlopers in our food supply, making their presence known through a litany of deleterious symptoms after consumption. In addition to the havoc they impose on digestive systems—and overall health and well-being—they can take a staggering economic toll.

Research from the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute indicates that the “five leading bugs—Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Toxoplasma gondii, and norovirus—result in $12.7 billion in annual economic loss, with the Top 10 pathogen-food combinations responsible for more than $8 billion.” 1

Food can be contaminated at nearly any step in the process, from production, processing, distribution, and preparation. While consumers bear some responsibility in preparing and cooking food safely, the food industry is responsible for producing safe food.

Nancy Donley, board member and spokesperson for the STOP Foodborne Illness organization refers to the “new” Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed into law in early 2011, as helping to create a culture shift within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “This act enables the FDA to be more prevention-focused instead of reactionary. It requires food companies to have food safety plans,” she said. In effect, the law gave the FDA more recall power and more inspection authority. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, it is the “most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years.”2

By emphasizing prevention, the focal point shifts to food manufacturers and producers, their processes and safety plans. “Some food manufacturers have embraced the law, stating ‘we want regulations.’ At the same time, the act has language in it that exempts small businesses,” Donley said, which leaves a gap in the level of oversight consumers can expect overall.

“At STOP Foodborne Illness, we believe that all companies have to play by the same rules, because pathogens do not discriminate,” said Donley.

Technologies to keep food safer

Like any type of business, food manufacturers want processes and tools that keep their production efficient. According to Donley, “the FSMA does not require additional testing or more equipment; instead it formalizes food safety practices and makes them more consistent.”

Yet, time-saving technologies do boost efficiency, and in some cases, consistency. One of the more acute components of food safety is maintaining proper temperature, whether in freezing or heating. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is used in the food industry to earmark potential safety hazards to reduce threats to food safety. “The biggest problem with HACCP is recognizing the need for food safety in terms of time and temperature,” stated Alan Mellinger, Business Unit Manager for Comark Instruments.

“We currently have tailored products such as pocket digital thermometers that measure down to 1.5 millimeters, with a sensor in the tip that offers a fast response,” said Mellinger. “A probe is used for thawed or cooked food and also for packaged food sitting on a pallet.” Yet, temperature checks are not necessarily consistent. “At times, these checks are run at the end of the day and documented after the fact,” he added.

To add more convenience, and perhaps instill greater consistency, data loggers or remote wireless technology is available to monitor freezers and coolers. “A series of alarms is sent to mobile phones to alert food processors of any significant changes in temperature. The general trend is toward wireless technology for monitoring temperatures 24/7,” said Mellinger. “The electronic technology is becoming more cost-effective. More importantly, recent codes have stated that food thermometers need to be digital, which are more precise. The dial thermometers are not precision instruments.” Continue reading

1Batz, M, Hoffmann, S. & Morris, Jr., G. Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations with the Greatest Burden on Public Health, April 28, 2011, retrieved from, March 12, 2012.

2, retrieved March 12, 2012.


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