Why Engineering Makes Scientific Breakthroughs Possible

engineering and science

Why Engineering Makes Scientific Breakthroughs Possible

Michael Faraday image

Michael Faraday

There was a time when science and engineering were almost inseparable from each other. Scientists generally created tools for the job themselves and often the experiment itself was centred on the testing of some new piece of home built equipment such as a battery or telescope. Even in those early days, engineering presented itself as an indispensable aid to scientific progress. Galileo might have ground his own lenses in order to better view the heavens, but it was spectacle maker Hans Lipperhey who gave him the know-how to do so.

However, the increasingly specialised world of science soon lead to a parting of the ways between experimentation, and the tools used to complete it; whilst Faraday conjectured on the possible uses of what was to become known as a Faraday cage, it was local metal workers that built it for him.

 

Engineering Expertise Aids Science

Since engineering is at its heart a different discipline to even the more closely related scientific fields such as Physics, such divergence was in hindsight inevitable. Design after all has to be something both tangible and rational. Engineering requires precision, where length, width, tensile strength and so on all need to be calibrated. Yet such rigidity does not lend itself well to more esoteric concepts such as dark matter or Quantum mechanics.

Engineering then, is the art of creating a device to test a theory where science is the art of creating a theory that then requires testing. As science progressed into the 20th century, the theories and the devices required to test them became ever more complex. The creator of a powerful microscope for example might be wholly ignorant of the inner workings of the very cells it is designed to observe. Yet ignorance of biology creates no more of a barrier to the creation of a precision instrument than ignorance of the art of lens making creates a barrier to the understanding of the cell.

Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider

Since science too has become increasingly specialised, expertise in broad fields has narrowed. Whilst the notion of Polymaths such as Benjamin Franklin has not exactly died, it has become somewhat moribund. The technical expertise required to piece together the Large Hadron Collider prohibits training in other fields. Quantum physicists spend a life time developing theories and have little time left to devote to the inner workings of machines built to turn their ideas into hard reality.

This is a very good thing; recent strides in science and medicine would have been far more sluggish had they relied on the skills of scientists alone. Medical science in particular has made some impressive strides in recent years, but the thought of doctors spending more time building CAT scans than they do using them to heal their patients is somewhat chilling. It’s not just the large ‘big ticket’ items that scientists require to get things done. At Laboratory Precision we provide a quality range of equipment that allows scientists to do what they do best, science!

 

It’s Not Just Huge Scientific Experiments…

Glass Vials for laboratoriesThe humble glass vial might seem like the least of a scientist’s needs, but without them little could be done. We build them in many different styles from injection vials to specimen tubes, and even the word glass is misleading. Scientific vials need to be designed for various levels of robustness; ever wondered why acid doesn’t leak through the bottles it’s stored in? That’s because we can make products out of specialist materials like Boroscilicate or De-alkalised Soda-Lime glass; bespoke products that offer specific advantages and unique applications.

Lab scales

Adam Equipment Laboratory Balances

We stock perfume atomisers and crimp-less spray pumps, laboratory balances and mass measuring equipment that produce levels of accuracy that are absolutely essential to all manner of research projects. We’ve over 40 years experience in making them so you’ll be guaranteed that they will be durable, reliable and excellent value for money.

Durability is certainly important. Scientific experiments can sometimes go on for years, so scientists need to know that the equipment they are using is in top condition. We build all our equipment to survive in some of the most sterile conditions in the world and they see daily use in laboratories world wide. Since we get incredibly low fail rates we know that our equipment is performing to an extremely high standard. We only stock equipment from top manufacturers such as Adam Equipment, Jun-Air and Bambi.

Applications for Crimp-On Atomiser Spray Pumps

Applications for crimp on atomiser spray pumps

Crimp on spray pumps are the preferred method for intranasal medication as well as perfumes because they are much less likely to leak when fitted properly and are tamper proof.  Regular sizes of spray pumps are usually 13mm, 15mm, 17mm, 18mm and 20mm.  They can also be found in other varying diameters, dosage amounts, length of skirt and general shape.

Fitting the pump

A multi-fingered collet type of crimper may be the best option for fitting the atomiser.  This is because if the cap has a long skirt, it can be laid against the neck of the bottle with this tool.  We advise all our customers on the correct tool to suit their selected component assembly.

Overview

A correctly adjusted tool and suitably compatible components are the key to a secure seal and there is no substitute for a quality crimper.  At LPL we stock regular size spray pump crimpers and supply spray pumps and bottles.

Ken Marshall
Director of Engineering
Email; ken@lab-uk.com
Labortory Precision Ltd. ©

The Ultimate Guide to Essential Equipment for your Chemistry Laboratory

lab equipment lady test tube

The Ultimate Guide to Essential Equipment for your Chemistry Laboratory

When setting up your chemistry laboratory, it’s important to ensure that you stock it with sufficient scientific equipment, allowing you to conduct your experiments thoroughly and safely. Here’s a guide to the basic equipment that any laboratory will need.

 

Safety equipment and supplies

The first thing that anyone should consider is safety equipment. Conducting chemistry experiments can be dangerous, so it’s important to ensure that you have all of the necessary supplies for if anything should go wrong.

A first aid kit is essential, and should contain items to treat all of the common issues and injuries that may be encountered in a laboratory environment. This includes antiseptic treatment and bandages, burn treatment and compresses, scissors and gloves. The kit should also be latex free (particularly the gloves) so that people can still be treated if they suffer from a latex allergy.

An eyewash station should be available in all laboratories, and everyone should be aware of its location. In the event of an accident, such as a chemical splash, eyewash should be used immediately to prevent any long-term damage. In addition to the eyewash station, many laboratories also have safety showers.

As well as a first aid kit, all laboratories should also have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket. This is especially important when flammable chemicals are being used, as the risk of a fire occurring increases significantly.

Spill neutraliser kits should also be available, to be used whenever chemicals have been spilled on the floor.

Equipment should be safe, fit for purpose, sturdy and reliable. Items such as oil free air compressors must be hygienic and well maintained. Using incorrect equipment can lead to a wealth of problems, especially if contamination in any form can interfere with experiment results.

 

Protective clothing

laboratory_safetySafety equipment is essential in order to treat any injuries that occur in the laboratory, but many injuries can be prevented if sufficient protective clothing is available.

Safety goggles are incredibly important, as they prevent substances from getting into the eye. Even harmless chemicals can damage the eyes, which are the most sensitive part of the body. Many chemicals have the potential to cause blindness, so it’s imperative that high quality safety goggles are available in all chemistry laboratories.

Protective clothing should also be worn to protect against any dangerous or corrosive chemicals. Even when you’re working with chemicals that aren’t harmful, it’s a good idea to protect your own clothing from unnecessary damage. Protective clothing consists of lab coats, gloves and shoe covers, and are available in a range of materials depending upon your requirements.

Spun-bound Melt-Blown Synthetic (SMS) is the most durable type of material, and offers the highest level of protection. This should be used when harmful chemicals are present, and is also designed to keep you cool. Basic protection is offered by polypropylene clothing. This is affordable, but will only protect against light splashes, so should be used with caution. The lowest level of protection is provided by polyethylene. This is traditionally only used as a temporary protection, so is good for use with visitors to the laboratory. It acts as a barrier to most fluids, and can be easily cut.

 

Glassware

Glass Vials

Clear Borosilicate Type 1 Glass Injection Vial

A wide range of laboratory glassware is available to support your experiments, and the exact types required would depend upon the nature of the experiments you wish to conduct in your laboratory.

Beakers are the most basic type of glassware, and are typically used to hold samples. They are generally wide containers, with open tops, so their use is limited within experiments.

Flasks are another type of glassware used to hold liquids, but offer more functionality when conducting experiments. They typically are conical containers, with a narrow mouth. This limits air exposure, and can easily be sealed if the experiment requires. If you are going to be heating chemicals, round-bottomed flasks are the best choice, as they enable the chemicals to be heated more evenly.

Other types of glassware commonly encountered in a chemistry laboratory include glass vials, which are small bottles typically used to hold samples, pipettes, which are used to transfer small amounts of a chemical from one container to another, and condensers, which are used to cool hot liquids and condense gases. More specialised glassware can be purchased depending upon the nature of your experiments.

 

Experimental apparatus

Lab scales

Adam Equipment Laboratory Balances

Of course, in order to conduct any experiments you will need to stock your laboratory with the necessary apparatus. Bunsen burners are the most iconic piece of laboratory equipment, and are commonly used to heat chemicals during experiments, as well as sterilisation and combustion. When choosing a Bunsen burner, it’s important to consider the type of gas that you’d like to use. The common choices are methane, which is a natural gas, or liquefied petroleum, such as propane and butane.

Again, the experimental equipment that you require will depend upon the nature of your experiments. The most common types of equipment are things like precision scales and balances, which are essential for weighing items to ensure precise quantities are used, a pestle and mortar, which can be used to grind down samples, and a microscope.

Science and society; public engagement in science

Science and society; public engagement in science

For many scientists today, developing ideas for projects that build public excitement and interest around science remains one of the most challenging, and rewarding, areas of their professional life.

So what is the secret of public engagement? Why is it so difficult and are we certain we want to take part in it anyway?

Too many times in the past we have seen the results of a scientific community failing to communicate effectively with the general public. Genetically modified foods, fracking, cloning; the list of episodes of significant scientific discovery that were met with public suspicion and protest is a long one. Nobody wins in this process, but it is ultimately the scientific community itself which suffers the most. When the public doesn’t understand and is not supportive of new advances and breakthroughs they become subject to review, regulation and usually experience a cut in funding, which is often redirected to more publicly palatable projects.

The traditional outlook of the scientist has been that we do the creation; we research, experiment and eventually achieve a breakthrough, making something that was previously impossible possible, or unknown, known. Scientists often take the view that it is not for us to argue the value of a breakthrough to society nor defend the ethics of it. However, this is precisely the position modern scientists find themselves in. They must now seek permission from society to undertake increasingly sophisticated projects. They must enter into a dialogue with the public in order to educate it, and in turn learn and respond to public opinion.

From large-scale initiatives funded by public bodies such as the Wellcome Trust or the Science and Technology Facilities Council to television programmes, representation in the arts, media or education, science needs a place at every table in order to stimulate discussion on topical issues and new developments. It is only through this kind of engagement with the public that scientists can hope to influence policy development and public opinion.

With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you break down the barriers between your projects and the people beyond it.

Think about the target audience for any communication that you plan. The public is not one homogeneous group but rather collections of smaller, more distinct groups. Consider which of these sub-groups you will be talking to and what their needs are. Include the kind of information they will need and frame it in a way they will be comfortable with, rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your communication style.

Remember the value widening your audience base. It’s easy to preach to the converted, but it won’t get you as far as entering into a dialogue with a more challenging group will. In doing this you’re likely to meet with resistance, but don’t be put off. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn and a necessary hurdle to overcome in achieving your public communication goals.

Never forget that communication is a two-way process. Broadcasting your message is only helpful to a certain degree, beyond which it’s necessary to listen to feedback and make any adjustments necessary to the message you’re sending out. This is your opportunity to respond to the concerns of the public and it’s very often an occasion where you will learn from them, as well as you best opportunity to persuade.

Focus on your topic or project area and be very specific about its objectives and remit. Don’t try to represent the whole of the scientific community and be careful not to go off on a tangent in your communications. Stick to your key messages, keep them concise and to the point.

Set yourself some goals at the start of the engagement programme and try to include realistic, achievable and measurable targets. Make your goals specific and include metrics, rather than vague aspirations to ‘improve attitudes’ or similar. Remember, you won’t change the world, so break your objectives down to something you can manage. Think about how you will define success at the end of the programme and how you could measure it. This will help you plan future campaigns and also secure any funding you might need for bigger engagement projects.

Finally, don’t view public engagement as just ‘nice to have’ or something you can tack on at the end of a project. You should view communication as an integral part of your research and make provision for it in your work and budgeting. You’ll actually find it’s much easier, and more effective, to manage if you plan an outreach dimension into your project from the outset, rather than having to build in a communication strategy at the end of project that wasn’t planned with engagement in mind.

Removing crimped on caps from vials and bottles (de-capping de-crimping vials)

Removing crimped on caps from vials and bottles (de-capping de-crimping vials)

There are many stories of injuries caused by attempting to remove crimp caps from vials with knives, scissors, nail files and screwdrivers etc.  This can result in personal injury as well as a broken or chipped vial resulting in a contaminated product.

Obviously this is not the way to do it safely or satisfactorily.  There are tools available for this task, some better than others.  In my opinion the four jawed de-capper is the cleanest and safest way to remove a crimped on cap from a vial or bottle.  If the cap can be removed cleanly without damaging the vial then this has got to be the best result.

At Laboratory Precision Limited we have been manufacturing a number of sizes of de-cappers with four jaws for many years as we believe this is the best way to remove crimped on caps.  With a four jawed de-capper equal pressure is applied to all sides of the vial cap simultaneously, thereby balancing the pressure, reducing the likelihood of breaking or chipping the top of the vial.

Four jaw de-cappers when manufactured precisely for a given vial assembly will remove the cap safely and easily time after time. The de-capper can be manual or pneumatic and a selection along with video’s can be viewed by clicking this link;

http://www.lab-uk.com/apcp2000-air-powered-vial-crimper-decapper-tool-p

Ken Marshall – Director of Engineering

Reliable Engineering Drives Scientific Breakthroughs

Reliable Engineering Drives Scientific Breakthroughs.

The scientific world has come a long way. From the first inquisitive minds drawing star charts and sun patterns, right through to the moment man landed on the moon, science has been finding new ways in which to take important measurements. As the various fields have grown, the precision and accuracy of modern scientific instruments have grown with them. As the theories and findings have become more complete, the precision needed to make that next breakthrough is more important than ever. In a world where the next advancement could be an atom wide, finding the right equipment has never been more important.

 

Science is Reliant on the Accuracy of Measurement

 

GalileoTo draw a line from the first scientific problems to the most modern concerns, one could just as well draw a line to illustrate the advancement of measurement and testing devices. In the city of Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, there is a museum dedicated to the instruments and the tools which Galileo and his contemporaries used to invert the way in which those around them viewed the world. Walking through this gallery allows the visitor to witness the refinement and the increased care and attention which was poured into each ruler, beaker, and telescope.

Science in a Digital Age

 

While many of the greatest visionaries of the past were forced to crunch their own numbers, the development of computing machines allowed scientists the opportunity to take on larger projects in a shorter amount of time. Set to work, the early supercomputer could examine and analyse less than is capable by a modern smart phone. But their construction was not just about raw computing power, it was about accuracy. The ability to ensure accuracy to an ever smaller amount is one that allows technology, healthcare, geology and any other field of science to advance ever further.

But while computers have stolen the limelight in terms of much of the world of scientific equipment, there are still refinements and evolutions being made in the domain of modern instruments. Now more than ever before, our scientists have access to a world of equipment and instruments that are able to measure almost anything. While not as flash or as showy as their computer counterparts, much of what many laymen would consider ‘real science’ still happens in a lab coat, peering into a beaker for the smallest glimmer of a reaction. In circumstances such as these, it is vital that the instruments be of the highest possible quality.

 

Even Glass Vials Must Be Fit for Purpose

 

Glass Vials

Clear Borosilicate Type 1 Glass Injection Vial

It might not appear much, but the standard glass vial can be an incredibly complicated item in the scientific arsenal. For members of the public, one vial might look like any other. However, the differences are contained at a molecular level. The aim, typically, is to ensure that the glass is able to remain as objective as the observer. This means that the container will need to be as unreactive as possible. A USP Type I Borosilicate glass is the standard container, ensuring that there is the smallest possible chance of a reaction coming from any chemicals which might be inside. Soda-Lime glass is another option, but when using these vials the scientist must consider the pH level of the contents; anything above a pH level of 7 and the glass runs the risk of affecting the experiment. In order to make sure that as much is done as possible to find the real truth behind any theory or inquisition, one must make sure that the tools employed are offering the best possible help and are making sure that the results which emerge are in no way affected by the tools in the scientist’s employ.

 

Proven, Reliable & Accurate Equipment is Available

 

Bambi Oil Free Air CompressorThis is true of everything from Laboratory balances and air compressors, right through to the crimpers used to create the vial seals and the caps and seals which close them up. In every single instance, these tools and instruments must be accurate, they must be objective and they must be reliable at all times. In a field where being able to replicate the same conditions and the same results is absolutely essential, having the right equipment can make all of the difference.

In the world of modern science, where every single detail is more important than the last, the ability to ensure that the most modern and useful equipment is always being used is absolutely essential. For modern science, modern instruments allow future findings.

Laboratory Will Explore the ‘Final Frontier’

Laboratory Will Explore the ‘Final Frontier’.

The British Antarctic Survey have committed to making an amazing new ship, costing £200 million. This will be the next step in Britain’s continued exploration of the polar regions, allowing us cutting-edge research facilities to better explore the Antarctic and the seas, about which we still know so little.

 

Floating Laboratory to Explore Polar Regions

floating-lab-for-polar-region

£200 Million Floating Lab

The new ship will be one of the biggest, most well-equipped Arctic research vessels of its kind. Its ice-breaking capabilities will make it ideally suited for work in frozen seas, and its strength in this area will allow British researchers to head further into frozen areas than they can in any of the current fleet of two.

The two current ships on the British Antarctic Survey’s fleet are the RRS James Clark Ross, built in 1990 and the RRS Ernest Shackleton, built in 1995. While both ships have provided long and distinguished service, there is a real need for an up-to-date vessel with all the capabilities that modern scientific technology can bestow. Of great need to the fleet is a helideck, which is essential to the effective performance of research in an area renowned for its unforgiving landscape.

Laboratory SHip James Clark Ross

The RSS James Clark Ross

 

Technology Fuels Scientific Breakthroughs

It’s amazing that such research can be done so quickly now, with modern technologies allowing for a whole range of laboratory equipment that might only once have been dreamed of. The new ship is planned to be filled with the best modern technology can offer, including robotic submarine vessels and flying ‘drones’ – something that would be hard to imagine only years ago. These will allow the BAS to investigate areas previously unreachable, or too risky and expensive to investigate with older technologies.

While we have two ships already a part of the expedition, these were built many years ago, and scientific technology has leaped ahead since their construction. As our production techniques continue to improve, it’s ever-easier to do less with more, and to rely on the quality of equipment – fewer backups, less bulk, and better precision allow laboratories to use their space more effectively. There is less need to fill up the space with clunky equipment, spares, and the like, so the space can be used to carry more varied technology – these are vital considerations for something like a mobile, ship-based lab, where space is always at a premium!

The skills we have now for making effective, lightweight, and inexpensive equipment are highly developed, and the budget of £200 million will surely allow for the most effective, forward-thinking technologies to be used.

 

The Brits are Leading The Way

While the laboratory aboard the ship has not yet been specified, it will definitely contain some of the quality lab equipment that we’ve made our name manufacturing and stocking. As we know firsthand, modern laboratory equipment can’t be beaten for its quality, its reliability, and its ability to open whole new routes of research. The quality and precision by which modern lab equipment is made allows for ever-more-refined knowledge, and the materials we have available to us now allow us to make equipment that is sturdier than ever before – something that’s essential on the high seas. It’s fair to say that such a ship, and the laboratory it will contain, would not have been possible decades ago!

The British Antarctic Survey is one of the world’s leading scientific institutions, and has been performing research and surveying the Antarctic region for over half a century. They provide essential research into the environmental science of the region, which can frequently provide insight into the environment of the globe as a whole. It was the British Antarctic survey who first discovered the hole in the ozone, in 1985.

The BAS, with its bases in the region, also provides an important presence for Britain – as many of the rich natural resources in Antarctica are coveted by various nations, it’s important to maintain a role in the region. Britain’s long history of exploration, adventure, and research in the Antarctic has become the stuff of legend, and our continued involvement, whether under the British flag, or in international research, is a really important part of our continued scientific and geopolitical aims.

 

Untapped Resources and Scientific Breakthroughs

Such work is clearly essential not just for Britain, but for the scientific community as a whole. The ramifications of many of the scientific discoveries made in Antarctica are important for our scientific understanding of the whole world.

Adam_Equipment-Precision-Scales

Adam Equipment Precision Laboratory Scales

We can’t wait to see what such a large project will uncover – equipped with the very best in modern, accurate scientific laboratory equipment, along with other great elements of technology, the British Antarctic Survey are sure to uncover a wealth of new data regarding one of the most majestic regions of earth.

We know the precision of modern equipment, combined with Britain’s commitment to leading-edge scientific research, will help the scientific community to remain at the forefront of the fast-changing environmental and geological knowledge being unveiled every day in the region!

Matter Will Be Created From Light Within a Year, Claim Scientists

Matter Will Be Created From Light Within a Year, Claim Scientists

There are a few ideas out there that have fascinating scientists for millennia. Some of those bugbears have been somewhat disproved, even lowered to the level of pseudoscience; think of alchemy and time travel. As physics becomes enormously more sophisticated, however, some of these impossibilities have become possibilities again. One such fascination is the concept of creating matter out of light. A group of British scientists at the Imperial College London have just announced that this is exactly what they intend to do – before the end of the year.

 

Predicted 90 Years Ago…

Scientist Paul Dirac

British Physicist Paul Dirac

Considering the nature of the proposition, which sounds almost miraculous to the nonscientific, it is worth noting that it is a lot less fantastic an idea than one might imagine. In its essence, the creation of matter from light is an expression of the world’s most famous scientific equation, E=mc2. What’s more, a paper written in 1930 by Paul Dirac, a British theoretical physicist, described how photons, or light particles, could be created through the collision and annihilation (or combination) of physical matter in the form of an electron and a positron, its antimatter equivalent.

Even more encouragingly, American physicists Breit and Wheeler wrote in a 1934 paper that the converse must also be true, describing the process in a paper that was widely accepted by the scientific community. They warned, however, that it would be “hopeless to try to observe the pair formation in laboratory experiments”. This rather downbeat analysis was generally accepted, and there it was left for over half a century.

 

As Lab Equipment Develops, So Too Do the Possibilities

Today, it seems the long wait may be over. Science has changed beyond recognition in the interim, and so too has the equipment available to scientists. Modern day lab equipment is of a higher standard than ever before, and much of the advanced equipment available in many labs around the world would have been inconceivable in the time of Breit and Wheeler.

Amongst lab machines which are now relatively easy for physicists to gain access to are ‘hohlraums’. Named for the German word for ‘hollow room’, this machine takes the form of a hollow golden canister into which a high powered laser can be fired, creating a field of thermal radiation which creates light comparable to the light of stars. The device, upon which the new paper written at the Imperial College London relies, was discovered to be ideally suited for creating the sort of conditions that Breit and Wheeler thought were ‘hopeless’ back in 1934.

The plan is surprisingly simple. Breit and Wheeler had a key problem, namely that their theory was almost impossible to carry out in a measurable way. The collision and annihilation (combination) of two photons is the occurrence needed to produce matter, but this is an incredibly rare event and the small size of photons makes the likelihood of it less likely still. The experiment could be carried out thousands of times with no visible success, despite the theory being solid.

 

Ladies and gentlemen; The ‘Hollow Room’.

The hohlraum changes this. Oliver Pike, who led the study, praised the simplicity of the original 1934 theory and agreed that realising it in a laboratory was the problem. However, on examination of the hohlraum, his team discovered that it could produce a field of photons so dense that the likelihood of a collision if this was hit by another beam goes up enormously.

Big Bang

In the beginning…

The second ray of photons, as proposed by the paper, would be created by a high power laser which could be fired into a plate of gold, creating a dense gamma ray. This gamma ray would then be directed towards the hohlraum which, by means of another powerful laser, could be made to create a dense enough field of photons as to raise the likelihood of collisions occurring to the point where the experiment becomes truly viable.

This plan is one which they are optimistic about seeing through to gaining a set of results in the very near future. In fact, Pike along with Steven Rose, co-author of the paper, hope to be able to carry out the experiment which they have described ‘within a year’. This would be a huge moment for physics that, since its theoretical realisation in 1934, has remained one of the last pieces of the puzzle of light’s relationship with matter.

 

British Pioneering Science to Lead the Way?

It is also a coup for British science. Universities, laboratories and the wider industry have been under huge financial pressure as the UK has suffered a long recession followed by a period of government austerity measures. While the Chancellor, George Osborne, has said that British science is a priority for government, the scientific community are eager to prove that it really does pay to invest, and that investment in the best equipment and the latest technologies can yield ground breaking results.

As Pike commented, the ‘race is on’ to carry out the experiment. As far as British science is concerned, the prize for winning that race – a major ‘win’ for British science – is a doubly coveted one.

How Laboratories Are Shaping Human Immortality

How Laboratories Are Shaping Human Immortality

The Holy Grail. The Fountain of Youth. The Elixir of Life. Mythology is riddled with man’s quest to achieve the impossible dream of immortality, usually with tragic results.

But thanks to scientific and technological advances, we are now living longer, fuller lives than ever before. OK, so immortality still eludes us, but we are looking younger, acting younger and feeling younger for longer than ever before.

The average life expectancy in the UK is now around 80 years. Just fifty years ago, it was 70 years. Within just one generation, reaching 100 years is expected to the norm, and of course the government is already responding by raising the official retirement age accordingly.

But why are we living so much longer now, and what does this mean for the future?

 

Better Health

healthcare workers image

Medicine has improved healthcare beyond expectations

The main reason can be summed up in one word: medicine. Diseases which once wiped out entire civilisations have now been completely eradicated. Smallpox is perhaps the most famous example of an extinct disease – scientist Edward Jenner created what turned out to be the first ever successful vaccination in 1798, and the last recorded case of the disease was diagnosed in 1977.

With the help of high quality laboratory equipment and visionary scientists, other once-dreaded diseases are in the process of being wiped out. One hundred years ago, polio was one of the most feared illnesses on the planet killing around 15% of those affected. However, following the infamous polio epidemic of 1952, the world’s top scientists worked around the clock to develop preventative vaccinations for the disease. By the end of the twentieth century, polio was under control.

However, just last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the renewed spread of polio to be a “public health emergency of international concern”, with “extraordinary” levels of the disease being recorded in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This announcement proves that we can never afford to be blasé about our health, and that continued investment into scientific research is still a priority. Laboratory Precision Limited sells a range of high quality lab equipment which is at the forefront of the fight against disease.

 

 

Better Sanitation

sanitised water

Clean water on tap should not be a luxury

Many of the world’s worst illnesses and disabilities can be traced back to poor sanitation. The Black Death, or bubonic plague, was carried across the world by black rats, which thrived in the open sewers and unprotected food stores of medieval times. Today, we can keep vermin at bay with proper sanitation, refrigerated food storage and pest control, but poor sanitation still blights many third world countries, shortening many lives.

The introduction of potable water which has been properly treated for human consumption has also made a huge contribution to global sanitation and life expectancy. In developed countries, clean and safe drinking water is available on tap at any time, and huge investments are made into the water industry each year to make sure that the chemical treating processes are properly followed. In areas where access to clean drinking water is very limited, a marked reduction in life expectancy is apparent.

 

Better Nutrition

Health Foods

Better nutrition means longer life expectancy

We are more aware now than ever before of what we are putting into our bodies, and food is easily accessible for most people in the world. The invention of the calorie as a unit of measuring human energy levels, and the discovery of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients has helped us to develop a healthy and balanced diet and keep diet-related illnesses at bay. Scurvy was the number one cause of death among sailors until 1932, when evidence proved that it was linked to vitamin C deficiency. Now there are next to no cases of scurvy reported in the maritime community, as powerful supplements are now available, (as well as citrus fruit of course). Of course, new complex vitamin supplements are still being created in labs across the world, using the sort of hi-spec equipment which is sold at Laboratory Precision Limited, suggesting that the global appetite for better nutrition is showing no sign of waning.

 

Better Births

cute baby

Childbirth is much safer now than it has ever been

Before contraception, most women could expect to get pregnant at least once in their lifetime, and childbirth was extremely risky. In Victorian England, infant mortality rates could be as high as 500 per 1000 if you were living in an impoverished environment, while the maternal mortality rate was much higher than it is today. With proper antenatal monitoring and advances in midwifery, mothers and babies are much safer now than they were one hundred or two hundred years ago, which has a knock-on effect on the average life expectancy rates in the UK. With improved antenatal and maternity care and new advances in the lab, it is hoped that dangerous pregnancies and births will go the way of smallpox and become a thing of the past.

The Laboratory of the Future

The Laboratory of the Future

You do not need to have been around for a long time to remember the days of laboratories still stocked with well-worn wooden boxes, Victorian style instruments and other anachronistic paraphernalia.

Times are changing, the laboratories of today are far more streamlined and, judging from a slew of recent innovations, the laboratory of tomorrow will be something else entirely.

 

Consumer Technology and Scientific Technology Will Unite

Interestingly, the big technological and scientific developments that will drive this development, fall into two rough categories. First of all, advances in consumer technologies like better touch screen interfaces, wearable technology and 3D printing will undoubtedly impact on how the laboratory of the future looks. Then there is the entirely separate arena of material developments, greater understanding of the chemical make up of products, and new raw materials to be explored. Although these two areas do not overlap at present, it is likely that some of the most exciting new laboratory kits will emerge from their convergence.

Touch Screen Technology

Touch Screen Technology is more Sterile

A great example of this is in how we view visual information. No more than a decade ago, most of us had to rely on straightforward, one-way screens to view information. Times have changed, with touch screen technology having almost comprehensively overhauled the mobile telecommunications industry, made inroads into the personal computing and television industries as well as playing an increasing role in laboratory and medical settings. There are big advantages to touch screen in terms of hygiene, usability and functionality, so it is likely that tomorrow’s laboratories will use much more touch screen technology.

The interface revolution need not stop there, though. A recent German report into the future of dental labs suggested that the use of holography or tomography, popularised in science fiction – but so far quite different in reality, could be expanded to provide innovative new ways of presenting images to patients and practitioners. The opportunities for other laboratory environments are potentially huge.

 

Google Glass Protective Goggles?

Google Glass for Lab use

Google Glass is Destined to Change the Lab of the Future

As some things get larger, others get smaller. Protective goggles might yet get ‘Googled’, with technologies already in the pipeline from the search engine giant, for information displayed in glasses and even contact lenses. The safety and efficiency related applications of a direct information feed to a laboratory technician’s goggles could redefine the efficiency of laboratories almost overnight.

 

D Printing is a Laboratory Game-Changer

A 3D Printer

D Printers Open Up Possibilities for Scientists

Of all the new technologies to have made headlines in the last few years, it is perhaps D printing that presents the most comprehensive possibilities for revolutionising lab practice. It is not a technology uniquely applicable to laboratories, of course, and there have already been experiments ranging from a full-sized house being built in the Netherlands to a 3D printed gun being designed in Texas. The possibilities for change in the lab are no less fundamental. The use of 3D printers to produce prosthetics, valves and even lab equipment are almost endless… Developments in 3D printed replacement organ are already happening.

Needless to say, some things will stay much as they always were. Companies like Laboratory Precision Limited already produce lab equipment like vials, caps and seals which do not require any improvement and could not be realistically produced in a more cost-effective way through the use of in-house printers. Instead, it is the more difficult to source items which a laboratory printing facility could produce, drastically cutting waiting times, costs and the whole way the laboratory supply chain works.

Jun Air Oil Free Air Compressor

A Jun Air Oil Free Air Compressor

Of course, existing technology may develop and improve but you can bet that oil free air compressors will remain virtually unchanged with regards to performance and appearance… Though they may be integrated with technology of the future such as displays and interfaces that will link every element of the laboratory, dental surgery or scientific research centre they are used in.

 

Graphene: A Material we’ll all be Using

Graphene is the future

Graphene: The ‘Miracle Material’.

The flip side of the technological coin is the development of new materials, structures and techniques at chemical level. The British government, for example, is currently funding a rapid exploration of a newly available material, graphene, which laboratories at the University of Manchester have succeeded in producing, and which offers enormous possibilities for lab equipment. There are also a host of conceivable medical uses for the ultra-thin ‘miracle material’, as well as applications in areas like dentistry. Suddenly the instruments used in Star Trek and science fiction seem to be much closer to reality…

Sooner that imagined.

 

The Future of Science is Bright

The picture emerging, if these nascent technological advances are put together, is an encouraging one. A far simpler, cleaner interface combined with superior safety arrangements and an overhaul of the supply chain arrangements of many laboratories, could see labs becoming more efficient, more productive and more cost-effective. 3D printing combined with high quality new materials could, in the future, lead to a plethora of new treatment options and the ability of medical facilities to provide a far higher level of treatment.

The laboratory of the future, for all these advances, will not look entirely unfamiliar. Corny jokes pinned to the noticeboard will remain, as will staple technologies like chromatography equipment, which does exactly what it needs to do and could not be conceivably replaced, Laboratory Precision Limited also produce these, so the future looks stable for this manufacturer at least.

Lab Technicians Working

Lab Technicians in a Modern Day Laboratory

The missing link is the laboratory technician. Real advances only happen when people become involved, and whatever the laboratory of the future might look like, all possible advances depend on good scientists. In that sense, it is still reassuringly fair to say that the biggest variable amidst these exciting technological leaps remains the individuals at the centre of it all.