At Radleys, we’re world leaders in innovative productivity tools for chemists.
We consider the issues you encounter when using laboratory equipment – such as multiple set-ups taking up too much space, traditional jacketed lab reactors leaking and being difficult to use, flooding and wasted water from water condensers, mess and fire risk when using oil baths – and offer solutions to those problems.
In short, taking existing lab equipment as a starting point, we devise better alternatives – safer, cleaner, greener, more productive, easier to use, and with superior performance.
So we were delighted when one of the entrants for our recent Lego competition proved a fellow innovator, with an idea to improve current kit.
The BodyBox – a Better Glovebox
If you’ve ever used a glovebox, you’ll know that they’re not exactly user friendly!
Inorganic chemist Stephen Argent was fed up with performing air-sensitive research tasks in cramped and fiddly gloveboxes – a process he describes as “chemistry yoga, with the ever-present risk of trouser theft!”
So instead, he proposed “a glove and oxygen-free BodyBox lab, which places you right inside the box where the action is.
“Simply put on your ChemSuit and breathing apparatus before stepping through the airlock. Once inside the BodyBox you’ll find space enough to make your air-sensitive discoveries in comfort and style.
“Say goodbye to annoying ports, leaky gloves and awkward shelves that only an orangutan could reach.”
He was even good enough to outline a list of health and safety pointers for his invention:
- Always remember to put on your ChemSuit and breathing apparatus before entering the airlock. Failure to do so may result in suffocation and/or eyeball popping.
- Always leave the BodyBox before attempting to consume tasty snacks or beverages.
- Please dispose of all hazardous waste in accordance with local rules, and watch out for vermin.
Stephen has some experiments in mind that would be a breeze if performed in the BodyBox: “One of the research groups at the University of Nottingham is interested in making new molecules which contain individual metal-metal bonds.
“If any oxygen comes near these molecules they fall to pieces because the metal atoms would much rather bond to oxygen than other metal atoms. This work would be much easier in a BodyBox!”
But before we get carried away, when we asked him how feasible a real-life BodyBox would be, Stephen was doubtful: “If your air supply failed you’d be in big trouble,” he said.
“You could perhaps have a supply of air fed to you by a tether, but it would restrict your movement so much that you might as well go back to using a glovebox.”
It seems, then, that the BodyBox would make life harder as well as easier. And apart from anything else, it would cost many times as much as a standard glovebox.
So What Else?
When asked if he had any more ideas for new laboratory equipment, Stephen described a device that could scan a scientific paper and highlight any factual exaggerations or economies of truth.
“I envisage the machine would look a bit like a photocopier with steampunk copper pipes and valves all over it,” he said. “If the paper wasn’t telling the truth, a steam whistle would blow at a deafening volume.”
Some other “blue sky” ideas dreamed up at Radleys includes a lab work undo button (how handy would that be?), bendable glass to make it easier to fit glass parts together, and a magnetic stirring option for jacketed lab reactors.
Our R&D team even suggested a fantastical chemical synthesis machine: a big rack containing samples of all the elements, tubes from each going into a mixing chamber, and an interface to type in the chemical you want to produce. The machine would pump out the required elements into the mixer and generate your chemical.
What Equipment Would Make Things Easier for You in the Lab?
When working in a lab, you’ve almost certainly struggled with equipment that’s unwieldy or difficult to use, or a laborious process that seems to require one too many steps. So what would make your lab work easier?
Could existing kit be modified, or replaced with something completely different? Even seemingly “crazy” ideas could lead to fantastic new products.
So if you’ve any ideas for how to make your laboratory a better place, why not get in touch?
And even if you can’t think of any solutions, we’d still like to hear about your problems. Where are you spending too much time, energy, or money? What’s the most frustrating thing about your current processes? What hampers your scientific research or your business?
We’re not about to build Stephen’s BodyBox, but just maybe, in the future, one of your ideas might be found in laboratories across the world.