Answers

1.  Why should I spend money on buying beads?

First, consider the cost of a set of lost experiments.  Even a few contaminated bottles or tubes can have an extremely high cost to your lab.  Add in the time it takes to clean, refill and maintain the water bath.  Beads don’t evaporate and require minimal attention to keep them clean.  Then, calculate how many racks, weights and floats you buy to hold items in the water bath.  Beads hold any size or shape container that you would place in a water bath.  Finally, add up the money it takes to run a water bath long term.  Baths using beads consume less electricity and are better protected from burnout.  The result is that investing in Lab Armor™ Beads makes good financial sense.


2.  Are Lab Armor™ Beads packaged as ready-for-use?


Yes, Lab Armor™ Beads arrive in a sealed container ready to add to your thermal instrument.


3.  How much Lab Armor™ Beads do I need?


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 help 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 1/2 to 3/4 full.


4.  How long can I use Lab Armor™ Beads under normal conditions? 


Under normal conditions, Lab Armor™ Beads should last the life of the water bath.  If used incorrectly, 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
 

5.  Can Lab Armor™ Beads be used to fill any constant temperature water bath?


Lab Armor™ Beads are fully compatible with nearly all non-circulating, non-shallow, standard depth (>5" deep) water baths.
 

6.  What if my bath is designed differently than some of the more popular baths?


If your bath is in good working condition, and you haven't noticed any thermal performance problems with water, then beads should work for you.  Do not worry if your bath has an exposed thermocouple (thermostat) or heating element. An exposed thermocouple does not affect the performance of Lab Armor™ Beads.  An exposed heating element is only an issue if it is not centrally located. If your bath's heating element is off to one side, then you may notice a temperature gradient from one side of the bath to the other. Some baths have cover plates at the bottom. If your bath has a cover plate, please review the instructions on proper setup with Lab Armor™ Beads.
 

7.  Can Lab Armor™ Beads be used to fill a circulating or shaking water bath?


In general, if a bath has moving parts that interface with water, you should not add Lab Armor™ Beads.  However, if the bath can be operated effectively without the moving parts, and you can turn the parts off or remove them, then beads may be used.


8.  How long can I use Lab Armor™ Beads under normal conditions? 


Under normal conditions, Lab Armor™ Beads should last the life of the water bath.  If used incorrectly, 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 oxidize the surface of Lab Armor™ Beads thereby reducing fluidity and overall performance.


9.  Can I autoclave Lab Armor™ Beads?


We recommend that you avoid autoclaving Lab Armor™ Beads, unless you autoclave in a sealed, moisture-proof container. The high temperature steam can oxidize the surface of the beads, thereby reducing fluidity and overall performance.
 

10. What if something is spilled into the Lab Armor™ Beads?


Lab Armor™ Beads may be washed with dish detergent and water, then sprayed with a non-oxidizing disinfectant such as ethanol if necessary.  Most importantly, be sure to completely dry the Lab Armor™ Beads before adding them 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.  These mesh bags are often found at a camping supply store.
 

11. Do I need to use the water bath cover with Lab Armor™ Beads?


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 Lab Armor™ Beads will be slightly cooler due to the movement of cooler air over the bath.
 

12. Do temperature gradients exist in a water 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. The temperature gradient is very similar between water and beads, usually +/- 2.5ºC.  However, a sample vessel can be completely submerged in Lab Armor™ Beads, eliminating exposure to surrounding air temperature.
 

13. Is my water bath compatible with Lab Armor™ Beads?


Lab Armor™ Beads can be used with just about any water bath.  Like water, the performance of the beads is affected by 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 Lab Armor™  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 heating element, as well as the dimensions of your bath, you can gauge the performance of Lab Armor™ Beads in your bath.  However, circulating water baths are incompatible with beads.
 

14. How do Lab Armor™ Beads perform under high or low temperatures?


Lab Armor™ Beads have been tested using various water bath models at a range of temperatures.  In most baths, the further the set temperature is from ambient temperature, the greater the thermal gradient is farthest away from the heating element.  Therefore, at an operating temperature of 37ºC to 42ºC, the thermal gradient in a 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™ used.
 
To reduce the temperature gradient, use less Lab Armor™. For example, in a bath set at 65 ºC, the temperature gradient can be reduced by 2-3 fold by using a 3-inch depth of Lab Armor instead of 6-inch depth.  For the most part, high temperature applications use microfuge tubes and other small vessels, so reducing the overall volume of Lab Armor™ is very practical.
 

15. Besides keeping the bath cleaner, how do Lab Armor™ Beads protect samples better than water?


Lab Armor™ Beads eliminate the possibility of water wicking into the sample and prevent 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, Lab Armor™ Beads maintain temperature up to 5 times longer than water, offering better protection for incubating samples.
 

16. Is an air-jacketed water bath compatible with Lab Armor™ Beads?


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.  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.
 
Be aware that 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.  Heating elements that only cover a small portion of the base of the tub can make this problem worse.  Such baths produce hot spots, whether water or beads are used.


17. How do I keep my Lab Armor™ Beads shiny and fluid?


Normal amounts of precipitation on refrigerated bottles and vials are NOT harmful. However, exposure to a combination of heat and water or reactive chemicals can oxidize the surface of the Lab Armor™ Beads.  Chemically accelerated oxidation reduces Lab Armor's™ shine and more importantly, its fluidity.  In general, Lab Armor™ Beads can last for many years if kept relatively dry and clean. They can even out-live your water bath.


18. Can Lab Armor™ Beads be used for an ice bath?


There are a number of different ways to use Lab Armor™ 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.  It is 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).