March 5, 2020
Maintaining Laboratory Temperature and Humidity
When doing precision work, any alteration to the environment, the equipment, or the samples can have cascading effects. Even seasoned veterans run into issues in explaining if their results are possibly contaminated.
To do the best laboratory work, one needs to be able to reasonably rely on their results. These are some of the reasons that controlling laboratory temperature and humidity are so important. Of course, understanding this importance is only one piece of the pie.
Achieving a consistent set of conditions requires a lot of time and effort. So much that it leaves less time for the work. To get ahead of the risk factors, acquiring proper monitoring equipment and knowing tolerances is key.
Enjoy this deeper dive into information previously covered here.
Laboratory Temperature Guidelines
Every nation and organization has its own tweaks to the set standards for laboratory regulation. The agreed-upon standards set out by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) often form a baseline suggestion, rather than the actual hard and fast rule.
As an example, the optimal temperature listed is 20 -25 degrees celsius. This window is both overly broad and way too tight, depending on the work being done.
These temperatures are also for the samples themselves, not the ambient conditions. Measuring the temperature at the test site is difficult.
Testing the temperature at a sample provides a snapshot of the temperature range that is experienced. A sample goes through numerous changes. Movement from storage to a microscope element to a centrifuge all apply energy that changes temperature.
For the energy to raise the temperature outside of the window it needs to cross a threshold. Still, it is difficult to know if it has ever crept too high or too low.
And that kind of doubt can toss a breakthrough into the waste bin.
To this end, temperature monitoring needs to be done at each point in the process and listed before and after each test. This gives a more total range. The downside you face is the increased time to perform these tests. Time that leaves the sample exposed to other elements.
You can’t be aware of the temperature at all times, so you need to choose what points to collect and rely on a system that produces consistent results.
Monitoring each piece of equipment in a lab manually is both not ideal and practically impossible. Computer-assisted monitoring and external data collection free up value research man-hours. They also provide a more accurate data set.
Automatically adjusting heating and air conditioning systems is vital, especially for labs that have a fluctuating number of employees. The presence of additional personnel is one of the most easily overlooked environmental changes.
Laboratory Humidity Guidelines
Guidelines for humidity control recommend levels stay between 30 to 50 percent. Again, like the temperature guidelines, these are baselines set out by the ISO that see heavy modification based on need.
The relative humidity is somewhat easier to control than temperature for a sample. The particulars of the ambient humidity still face changes from one lab area to another.
Testing should be done within the range of typical storage and sample analysis areas to create a data set of variance. Length of exposure to humidity also needs to be taken into account.
Air purity is another important factor, so researchers should work with masks when near samples. This limits breath contamination. Alternatively, a positive pressure should be maintained to keep air quality in range.
Humidity monitors should be placed more centrally to equipment. Placing them near doors or portals where frequent changes happen can skew data points.
The primary reason to avoid changes in temps/humidity is to avoid contamination. The secondary reason is to maintain sample integrity.
Contamination and degradation happen in varying degrees. Some of it affects the sample itself while others affect the transportation and storage media used.
Samples risk contamination from microbial growth both internal and external. A bioactive substance needs to be monitored for activity to know what stage of growth it experiences or if stasis has failed.
When a sample drifts out of the expected range, the growth of additional elements may ruin the sample outright. This is a secondary concern to the loss of containment. It’s difficult to accurately record growth rates if variables get out of hand or are unknown.
Samples also face infiltration from transportation elements and assorted storage. Testing containers such as plasticware, glassware, and surgical grade stainless steel all have different potentials.
Each of these containers has its own workable range that needs to be known and monitored.
Avoiding contamination is only one issue. Instruments in the lab may become damaged by changes in temperature and humidity.
An accurate reading or even calibrating equipment doesn’t matter when the equipment itself is skewed. An air bubble in a lens may obfuscate vital information. A microchip suffering a short from accumulated water can ruin productivity.
Instruments are easier to monitor for constants in temperature/humidity. They face fewer environmental changes. Still, an instrument that runs constantly will have a higher operating temperature.
Maintaining your laboratory room temperature and humidity levels is a mixture of monitoring and predicting fluctuations. No environment is totally controlled. You need to adapt to changes and remove as many variables as possible.
To this end, frequent monitoring, gathering of data sets, and employing equipment that can automatically adjust for changing conditions is vital.
Even if contamination occurs, a well-established strategy allows you to find the source of the issues or be aware that the problem exists. The worst problem is not knowing that you don’t know something.
Free the Data
To maintain the validity of any research being done, you need consistent protocols across all of the laboratory testing and equipment. This starts with recording the laboratory temperature and humidity. From there, it expands to knowing variables that explain out-of-range results.
All of this is assisted by having dedicated monitors that you trust. Contact us for a full list of products and services for your laboratory monitoring needs.