liquid handling system

Liquid Handling Systems What Is It And How Does It Work?

by Raja Mehar

Automated liquid handling equipment comes in many different shapes and sizes.  Machines using a motorized pipette or syringe dispense an exact amount of a sample to a designated container.

This process reduces human error and produces consistently accurate results.  It reduces the need for lab technicians to perform highly repetitive tasks.  Technology allows technicians to spend time doing analysis, as opposed to manual labor.  This is particularly true of testing that requires high throughput.

The smart technician will keep up their fluid handling skills. As they still prefer to handle small batch processing manually.

Origins of Liquid Handling

One of the first systems for liquid handling was in 1875.  A professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Indiana designed a system to control the flux of water through a paper filter to wash a filtrate.

The Second World War saw the military push to develop automated systems for rapid gas analysis.  The military needed systems that sped up the process and allowed unskilled workers to perform complex technical tasks.

The 1970s saw the introduction of automated liquid handling systems.  High throughput screening became possible with these devices.

What It Does

Automated liquid handling equipment uses motorized pipettes attached to a robotic arm to dispense a specified volume of liquid to a designated receptacle.

This reduces human error, labour costs, and risk of contamination.  The benefits to science have been tremendous.   

Advances in the study of genomics, medicine, and biology have been made possible by advancements in high-volume liquid sampling and testing.

State of the Art

In modern laboratories, high-volume liquid handling is needed for efficiency.  Drug companies can screen as many as a million compounds to identify a new drug.  As a result automated liquid handling solutions now focus on the entire workflow as opposed to being a single workstation.

Automated liquid handling systems are now capable of setting up complex procedures and performing complete experimental tasks.

Challenges in Automatic Liquid Handling

Great strides have been made in automating the liquid handling process.  There are still challenges in the field.

Evaporation control is a serious problem when nano-litre amounts of liquid are being handled.   Humidity-controlled chambers that maintain precise relative humidity and temperature can reduce evaporation.

Handling viscous biomaterials at nano-litre volumes is difficult.  Viscous materials can adhere to anything they touch and the droplet release takes longer.   

Future of Liquid Handling

The development of I.S.O. standards will maximize precision and reduce risks for equipment manufacturers and laboratories alike.

The next step in liquid handling systems is the adoption of artificial intelligence. Researchers are exploring AI to oversee various stages of the process and harness the potential of internet connectivity for interacting with remote users.

Relying on machine learning, new software will be able to provide high levels of error management.   

The trend is in favour of systems that can dispense smaller volumes, operate in high-throughput environments, and maintain accuracy and precision.

Systems that introduce new technology, are small, and programmable are in demand by many labs.

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