Yes, Lab Armor Beads arrive in a sealed container ready to add to your thermal instrument.
Unlike water, Lab Armor Beads don’t evaporate and therefore helps protect against instrument overheating and burnout. But, like water, it is important to add a sufficient volume to your bath to ensure safe operation. An insufficient volume can cause inaccurate thermostat readings, which can result in continuous heating of the bath. Most water baths operate properly when filled to 80% full. Use the Lab Armor Beads calculator on the left sidebar to help you determine the optimal volume for your water bath.
Under normal conditions, Lab Armor Beads should last the life of the water bath. If used incorrectly or if not maintained and cleaned properly, the surfaces of Lab Armor Beads can become damaged, resulting in a loss of fluidity of the bath, but not in thermal performance. We recommend that you avoid strong detergents, acids and bases. Bleach, for instance, may tarnish the surface of the Lab Armor Beads reducing its fluidity and overall performance.
No, we recommend that you avoid autoclaving Lab Armor Beads. The high temperature steam can cause the surface of the Beads to become sticky, reducing its fluidity and overall performance. Should you need to disinfect, spray the Beads with 70% ethanol and mix.
Yes, Lab Armor Beads are compatible with all standard heat blocks. You will no longer need to buy a new aluminum block when a vessel doesn’t fit. For optimal performance, use a Lab Armor Bead Block with Beads in your heat block.
Lab Armor Beads may be washed with dish detergent and water, then sprayed with 70% ethanol if necessary. Most importantly, be sure to completely dry the Beads before adding back to the water bath, because a combination of heat and water can tarnish the Beads. You can use a mesh strainer to wash and dry. A nylon <1/4″ mesh bag works well, such as a camping stuff sack that you can find at a camping supply store. See question 10 for more details.
Yes, it is best practice to use the cover whenever possible. The cover allows maximum temperature range and helps maintain better temperature uniformity. In general, without the cover in place, the surface of the Beads will be slightly cooler due to the movement of cooler air over the bath.
Yes, all water baths have hot spots and temperature gradients. The extent of the gradient depends on the design of the water bath. In some baths, for instance, the heating element is small or is not centrally located. In others, the heating element expands the entire surface of the bath providing a more uniform heating capacity. Lab Armor Beads perform like water and the temperature gradient in a standard water bath is very similar as well, usually +/- 2.5ºC. However, for higher precision applications, the new Lab Armor Bead Bath performs at +/- 1.0ºC. One advantage of Beads is that a sample vessel can be completely submerged in the Beads, eliminating exposure to surrounding air temperature.
Lab Armor Beads can be used with just about any water bath. But, as mentioned in question 8, like water, the performance of the thermal media depends on the design of the bath and the location of the heating element. With water, for example, “hot spots” occur in areas of proximity to the heating element. Some elements are exposed on the bottom of the bath and others are recessed. Some baths are deep and others are shallow. In a bath with the element located in the center, water and Beads generally produce a temperature gradient of +/- 0.25 -0.75 ºC per inch in all directions from the middle of the bath. So, depending on the size and location of the element, as well as the dimensions of your bath you can gauge the performance of Beads in your bath. For more information on compatibility, download the Water Bath Compatibility TechNote.
Normal amounts of precipitation on refrigerated bottles and vials are NOT harmful. However, avoid exposure to a combination of heat and water or reactive chemicals that oxidized the surface of the Beads. Chemically accelerated oxidation reduces the Bead’s shine and more importantly, it’s fluidity. In general, Beads can last for many years if kept relatively dry and clean. It can even out-live your water bath.
Water baths from several major US manufacturers, including the Thermo Fisher & Shel Lab baths have been tested with Beads. Data shows that most baths are compatible, no matter their age. An exposed or recessed thermocouple does not seem to affect the performance of the Beads. However, the location and configuration of the heating element can make a difference in heating uniformity. Most of the water bath design problems affecting performance of Beads, also affect the thermal performance of water. Circulating water baths are generally incompatible with Beads. For more information on compatibility, download the Water Bath Compatibility TechNote.
Beads have been tested using various water bath models at a range of temperatures. In most traditional water baths, the further the set temperature is from ambient temperature, the greater the thermal gradient will be in the bath. Therefore, at an operating temperature of 37ºC to 42ºC, the thermal gradient in a common water bath is typically +/-1-3ºC, whereas at 55-65ºC it is closer to +/-3-8ºC depending on the design of the bath and the amount of Lab Armor Beads used. For applications that require greater temperature control, a Lab Armor Bead Bath can be used. Bead Bath is designed specifically for use with Beads, and therefore provides more consistent, uniform temperatures throughout the bath compared to traditional water baths. Thermal uniformity is +/- 1.0ºC at 37ºC.
Beads warm 1.25-2.5X slower than water, depending on the volume of the vessel. But, there are ways to compensate for this:
- Raise the temperature of Beads
- To avoid over-heating, validate the adjusted protocol
- Keep the conditions constant from experiment to experiment
For example, to raise the temperature of a typical 500 ml bottle of cell culture media from 4ºC to approximately 37ºC in 30 minutes, traditionally, a 37ºC water bath is used. To accomplish the same results using Beads, the bottle can be submerged in 50ºC Beads for the same 30 minutes, then pulled out and placed onto the surface of Beads. The Bottle of media will remain at 37ºC +/- 2ºC for up to 6 hours until use.
When a frozen vessel is placed into the bath, the Beads surrounding the bottle become temporarily cool. And if the vessel is large enough, just like a water bath, the overall temperature of the bath will decrease slightly below the set point and trigger the bath to begin heating. The cool areas surrounding the bottle will slowly warm up until the bottle reaches the set temperature. Although similar gradients are produced in water baths, in general, the whole bath cools down and re-warms without obvious gradients because of normal disturbances and stirrings, as well as natural thermal circulation of water. Instead of always stirring the Bead bath, customers can most likely solve their problem with a simple change in protocol. By allowing frozen vessels to thaw overnight in the refrigerator to 4ºC before placing it in the bath, it will warm quickly in the Bead bath and will not contribute greatly to cooling the bath and disturbing the temperature gradient.
- Eliminates the possibility of water wicking into the sample
- Eliminates cross-contamination from water dripping off a vessel onto other items on the bench when removing vessel from the bath
- If the bath is accidentally turned off or loses power, Beads maintains temperature up to 5 times longer than water offering better protection for the incubating sample.
- While thawing large vessels, surrounding Beads become cooler rather than the entire bath.
In general, air-jacketed baths provide better overall heat distribution and temperature gradients. The air jacket that surrounds the tub portion of the bath allows the heated air generated by the heat element at the base of the tub to also warm the walls of the tub. Since Bead baths primarily rely on heat conduction (heat transfer by contact), baths with heated walls transfer heat to the Beads from 4 directions. Baths without air jackets less efficiently heat the Beads from the bottom only.
There is another potential design problem with some non-air-jacketed baths. If the bath’s heating element is not recessed below the tub, but it is instead fixed to the tub by metal-to-metal contact, the base of the bath can become very hot in areas where contact is made. This produces hot spots on the bottom, which results in uneven gradients in the bath. Small sized heating elements that only cover a small portion of the base of the tub makes this problem worse. Such baths produce hot spots even when water is used. If you are experiencing problems with your non-air-jacketed bath, as an alternative to buying a new bath, simply add a container of Beads to your laboratory oven or incubator. A container such as a stainless steel pan with 3-4″ walls can be filled with Beads and placed into the heating unit. The container of Beads will work great with a minimal gradient. Such a container can be added to a standard incubation oven, a cell culture incubator, or a refrigerator for cold incubations.
There are a number of different ways to use Beads. Many customers place containers of Beads in their refrigerators, incubators and ovens.
When creating an ice bath, one goal is to keep the Beads dry. So it’s a good idea to separate the Beads from the ice packs, which accumulate condensation. We recommend using some kind of mesh wire or fabric. Also, any condensation that builds on the surface of the Beads will be able to drip through the mesh. It’s important to keep the Beads from soaking in water for extended periods of time. Besides attracting contamination, excessive water contact will tarnish the surface of the Beads and reduce the fluidity of the bath. Also, as an alternative to ice packs, dry ice can be used to make a colder bath (<0 ºC).
The Beads do not contain any dangerous elements that will contaminate your environment or pose health risks. The Beads are manufactured and batch analyzed by metal optical emissions spectrometry. Lab Armor maintains strict quality controls on all its raw materials and manufacturing outcomes. The Beads are designed to be used safely at both low and high temperatures. For more information on safe working temperatures of Lab Armor Beads, refer to FAQ #20 below or contact technical services for specific recommendations.
A shaker unit is still required for large bottles or flasks that need high rpm agitation, such as 250 ml flasks for bacterial cultures. But for low speed agitation, a standard laboratory rotator (such as a Lab-Line Maxi Rotator), a Bead tray, and a general-use incubator, can replace a shaking water bath.
Here’s how it works:
Option 1) Samples are added to a StayTemp tray that is placed atop a rotator inside a standard laboratory incubator and agitated at the desire temp.
Option 2) Warm Beads from a Bead Bath can be scooped into an insulated WalkAbout tray and samples can be rotated on the bench top, outside the incubator for 0.5 to 1 hr at temperature. We can provide larger insulated trays for bottles and flasks too. In an incubator, the Beads actually transfer thermal energy more efficiently to the samples than by air alone. And the Beads stay at temperature ensuring consistent incubation despite folks opening and closing the incubator door repeatedly.
Yes. Contact Lab Armor for ordering information.
For best performance use Lab Armor Beads at an operating temperature from -80 to 180ºC. However, product may be used up to 300ºC without loss in thermal performance, but product fluidity may be reduced. Please contact technical services for specific recommendations.
No, you will need to use a heat block. Add the sample to your dry bath by replacing one Aluminum block. Allow the Beads to warm, monitor temperature, then add sample vessels of various sizes and shapes. Try nonwater-tight vessels, such as petri dishes and multiwell plates. Bury a microfuge tube containing a liquid such as water into the Beads. Note that by eliminating exposure to surrounding air temperature, condensation doesn’t accumulate under the lid. Learn more about how to test your Lab Armor Beads Sample.