Getting precious about your lab space? Perhaps you have a neighbour who is forever encroaching on your area, or you can never seem to find room to store your samples.
Not everyone has the luxury of working in a large lab, which can make you protective about your space and if it hinders your work it can be frustrating too.
By following a few simple steps, you can use your lab space more effectively and help keep productivity up and stress down.
Sharing equipment is a common working practice that helps free up space. You may have underutilised equipment you can use in your lab, or perhaps even in a different research group.
When sharing equipment, it is worth putting a system in place to help avoid confusion. The last thing you want is a sample that you worked long and hard for going missing.
Some useful tips for sharing lab equipment include:
- Making a schedule for people to book time to use certain equipment.
- Having a good labelling system that will allow you to clearly identify samples. It’s no good using labels that will rub off or are illegible.
- Allocating specific shelves to people, if you’re sharing fridges.
- Making use of all available space by using rectangular instead of round bins in your fridge for instance.
- Ensuring everyone understands any safety risks and is educated on how to prevent contamination.
- Being clear on who has responsibility for ensuring shared fridges are working well and are maintaining optimal conditions. Consider using alarms to monitor temperature if you store samples which are particularly sensitive.
- Using location tracking software to make it simple for you to find samples quickly.
When sharing equipment, be sure not to put it in an area that’s designated to specific people. Choose a place where it won’t be an inconvenience to others by producing noise for instance.
If you need extra motivation to make such changes in your lab, remember that sharing equipment has several benefits. It’s good for the environment because you won’t waste energy on running underutilised equipment. If you share equipment, you’re also less likely to overbuy, so you’ll save money. Sharing equipment can also be great for fostering collaboration between research groups. Be open to meeting new people and you never know where that conversation at the NMR machine may lead.
Although some equipment needs to be allocated to specific people, you can still share several others like: centrifuges, balances, readers, incubators, mass spectrometers, NMR machines, fridges, ovens and ice machines.
Make tidying up a habit
When you’re busy, it can be easy to neglect tidying up. You may have more space than you realise - it’s just masked by mess!
Simply getting into the habit of washing and putting away anything you’re not using can free up space. It may not be a fun task but once you’ve done the initial big tidy keeping on top of it will be easier. And of course a tidy work space is safer too.
Centralise glass washing
An increasingly common practice that can save space is centralising glass washing. Instead of having sinks at the end of benches, glassware is collected in a trolley and taken to mechanical washers. Smaller sinks can simply be used for rinsing, which will free up bench space. This is also safer than having large sinks at the end of benches, where a high volume of through traffic can lead to accidents. If you do wash anything in sinks, use wall-mounted drying racks to save on bench space.
Throw away expired samples and compounds
Are there unclaimed samples lurking in the back of your fridge or cupboards? There’s no better time than now to make sure everyone throws away samples they don’t need. Location tracking is also useful for keeping track of compounds that have expired.
Work away from the bench when you can
Are there any tasks you carry out in the lab which could be done remotely instead? You may be able to step away from the bench more often than you realise, especially if you use technology like Radleys’ AVA Software to control reactions remotely.
Design a collaborative lab
If you’re lucky enough to be getting a shiny new lab, then now is the perfect time to make sure you put your space to good use by choosing the right design.
Open plan layouts make it easy to share space but bear in mind that some processes, especially if they’re dangerous, will need to be carried out in separate enclosed areas.
Aim to choose a design that will cater for your workflow and help you work efficiently and productively. It’s important to work out what each section of the lab will be used for and how many people are likely to be in the lab at any one time. This will give you a realistic idea of how much space you really need.
Be careful not to cut down on space too much as you need to have enough room to work comfortably and safely. Consider things like how much clearance space you need. Also - if a space is too small, it can be tricky to keep clean.
Choose space saving equipment
If you’re short on space, then the next time you buy equipment choose something more compact. If it’s been a while since you bought new equipment, you may be surprised by some of the options available and the difference they could make to your work.
At Radleys, we have several products which are designed to take up as little space as possible and increase productivity too.
StarFish Work Station
StarFish is ideal for popular heating and stirring applications during distillation, extraction and synthesis. It’s a great space-saver because it allows you to combine several heating and stirring set-ups, which will save you money too. The modular design makes it easy for you to free up bench space by storing away spare components.
Tornado Overhead Stirring System
The Tornado system allows you to use a single overhead stirrer for multiple reactions. It can stir up to six round bottom flasks in 50 ml, 100 ml and 250 ml sizes, when combined with our Carousel 6 Plus.
GreenHouse Work-Up Station
The GreenHouse Work-Up Station uses an innovative stacked column design to allow you to carry out two levels of sequential purification. When you only want to carry out one reaction at a time, you can simply detach the upper support plate. It’s compatible with standard 24 well microtiter plates.
Findenser is a safer and more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional water condensers. Because it doesn’t require running water, Findenser can be used anywhere in the lab, without the need for messy tubing. It has helped institutions like the University of California earn accolades for saving millions of litres of water. Because it removes the risk of flooding, you can leave reactions running overnight. It can be used with a range of flask sizes up to two litres.
The Reactor-Ready Duo Core combines a strong framework with all the core components you need for running two jacketed reactions. It allows you to use a single thermoregulator to control the jacketed temperature of two vessels, saving you valuable bench space.
How do you save space in your lab? Have you got some tips you’d like to share? Why not let us know by tweeting @Radleys?