Comparison of Syringes in Scientific Research Labs

IN THIS ARTICLE:

  • What Exactly is a Syringe, and What Can You Use Them for in Research Labs?
  • Why is it so Important to Choose the Right Syringe Type?
  • How Can I Transfer Fluid Accurately?
  • How Can I Ensure I am Choosing the Correct Syringe for My Experiment?
  • Parts of a Syringe
  • What Kind of Terminations Are There? Which Can Work When Using a Syringe Pump?
  • Do I Need to Know the Diameter of the Syringe?
  • What are Syringes Made Of?

WHY LEARNING ABOUT SYRINGES IS ESSENTIAL WHEN WORKING IN SCIENCE LABS:

  • Syringes are vital tools in scientific research labs in areas such as medicine, chemistry, and biochemistry. They allow researchers to control and measure volumes with great accuracy.
  • They are used for different purposes, from accurate sample preparation to precise liquid handling and chromatographic analysis.
  • Syringes can be used in chemistry labs both manually or with instrumentation, such as syringe pumps.
  • There are many different types and sizes of syringes available on the market, and it is fundamental to determine which syringe type is most appropriate for any specific experiment to ensure reproducibility and avoid accidents, contamination, and experimental errors.

As a research scientist with a good number of years of experience working in science labs, I have had the opportunity to perform different types of experiments in different areas of science, such as chemistry and biology. Today, I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart as a research scientist: syringes.

Now, you might be thinking, “Come on, syringes? What’s the big deal?” Well, let me tell you, my scientific friend, syringes are like unsung heroes and essential tools in scientific research labs. I can’t even begin to count the dozens of times I have used them for all types of applications.  As someone who has spent years working in labs, I can tell you that finding the proper syringe can sometimes be a real headache, whether aiming to use them manually or with syringe pumps.

Trust me; I’ve been there, struggling to choose the perfect syringe for a particular application, especially when dealing with dangerous chemicals or high-pressure experiments. There are multiple types of syringes, each designed for different applications. Let’s take a moment to explore the world of syringe functions in laboratories from a scientific perspective, but before we dive into the details, let’s start with the basics.

What Exactly is a Syringe, and What Can You Use Them for in Research Labs?

Syringes are versatile tools with multiple applications in various scientific disciplines, including chemistry, genomics, biochemistry, and medicine. They are used in many laboratories daily for measuring and transferring liquids and gases. In a lab, you can use chemistry syringes for a wide range of tasks, including:

  • Performing injections in lab animals.
  • Dispensing viscous liquids, lubricants, or greases.
  • Adding reagents and solvents to reactions.
  • Transferring DNA samples to sequencing gels for electrophoresis.
  • Cell culture applications for tasks such as media exchange, cell counting, or reagent addition.

But syringes also have other applications in chromatographic techniques, including gas chromatography (GC) and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). They are used for sample injection, where precise volumes are critical for accurate analysis.

Now, here’s the deal: Regardless of the application, when working with syringe pumps or using syringes manually, scientists should select the appropriate syringe type.

“Whether you’re using syringes manually or with instruments like syringe pumps, choosing the right type of syringe for your needs is crucial.”

With so many options available, making the best choice can be a real challenge. But don’t be afraid! I’m here to guide you through the syringe selection process.

There are many different types and sizes of syringes available on the market. Due to the wide selection and extensive applications, choosing the most suitable type or size for a specific experiment can be difficult. Whether you’re using syringes manually or with instruments like syringe pumps, choosing the right type of syringe for your needs is crucial.

Why is it so Important to Choose the Right Syringe Type?

Well, let me tell you, using the wrong syringe can lead to all sorts of problems. We’re talking about accidents, contamination, and experimental errors, and it will be difficult for you to reproduce the same experiment if you choose the wrong one.

How Can I Transfer Fluid Accurately?

When it comes to precise liquid handling, syringe pumps are best. Syringe pumps are commonly used when looking to transfer samples and reagents accurately. They use a syringe for the fluid reservoir and are designed to gradually administer the desired amount of fluid with a precise flow rate for chemical and biomedical research use.

One reliable brand that offers top-notch syringe pumps for all your scientific needs is Chemyx, which has got you covered for microfluidic dosing, chemical discovery, industrial coatings, and neurology, among others.

How Can I Ensure I am Choosing the Correct Syringe for My Experiment?

Well, it all boils down to understanding the chemical or reagent properties that require transferring, the injection volume, and the specific injection location and method.

“Oh, and a word of advice: always read the safety data sheet and double-check the compatibility of your materials before transferring liquids, especially when dealing with hazardous chemicals or extreme conditions like high temperatures or pressure.”

To ensure the selection of the appropriate syringe, it is crucial to identify your sample type and determine the smallest volume to be dispensed or injected. This knowledge will provide you with the necessary information regarding the material, size, and specifications of the syringe for the experiment.

Oh, and a word of advice: always read the safety data sheet and double-check the compatibility of your materials before transferring liquids, especially when dealing with hazardous chemicals or extreme conditions like high temperatures or pressure.

Parts of a Syringe

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s talk about the different parts of a syringe. Generally speaking, for the sake of simplicity, there are three main parts or sections to any given syringe: the barrel, the plunger, and the termination.

  • Barrel: It is a cylindrical chamber that holds the liquid to be injected or withdrawn and where you can find the graduation. It is transparent so that the content can be visible; however, in some instances, an opaque barrel is required for light-sensitive applications. The barrel forms the body of a syringe that houses the plunger. You know how syringes come in different sizes, right? Well, those measurement lines on the syringe can be in milliliters (mL) or microliters (µL), depending on how big the syringe is. For accuracy and precision, the smallest dispensing volume for a given syringe should be greater than or equal to 10% of its total capacity. But what does it mean? Let’s say you got yourself a 10 µL syringe. The smallest amount you should transfer with it is 1 µL.
  • Plunger: It is the thing that moves freely up and down inside the barrel, creating a vacuum to draw liquid in or push it out through the tip. Some syringes have interchangeable barrels and plungers, extending their performance and increasing cost-effectiveness.
  • Terminations: It is the end part of the syringe, located at the end of the syringe barrel, and connects the syringe to different needles or connectors. To support a wide range of applications, terminations are supplied in several different needle and connector combinations. Various terminations and needle options are available, especially for glass syringes. Many syringes are supplied and used with needles attached, but other terminations are also available, which are helpful when working with syringe pumps. The needles can be permanent or cemented into the glass syringe barrel or removable.

What Kind of Terminations Are There? Which Can Work When Using a Syringe Pump?

So, picture this: you’re handling liquids with syringe pumps, and sometimes you have to make sure there’s not a single drop of air in your fluid path. That’s where a terminator called Bubble Free Prime (BFP) comes to the rescue. In regular syringes, there’s this annoying gap between the syringe tip and the valve that traps around 50 µL of air. But with BFP, that problem is history. It uses a conical plunger tip that goes all the way through the threaded termination and into the valve, banishing every last bubble of air from your fluid path.

Now, let’s talk about Luer Lock syringes. These are super common, and you’ll find them everywhere, from hospitals to research labs. Why? Because they have these secure screw-type connections that make them incredibly versatile. You can attach hypodermic needles, adapters, tubing, or valves. The twisting motion locks the needle hub into place, so you don’t have to worry about accidental disconnections. It’s all about safety and stability, especially when using syringe infusion pumps to deliver medication to patients. And, of course, it’s generally a go-to choice for syringe pumps.

But there’s more! We can’t forget about the Luer Slip or Slip Tip syringe. This one is a favorite in research labs and the medical field. It’s perfect for administering medication subcutaneously or intramuscularly. You simply push the needle hub onto the syringe, which stays put thanks to good old friction. It’s super easy to attach and detach as needed. However, keep in mind that it doesn’t have a fancy locking function like the Luer Lock. So, it might not be the most stable choice if you’re dealing with thick or sticky liquids or working with high pressure.

When it comes to syringe pumps and connections, remember to choose the suitable terminator and connection for your needs.

Do I Need to Know the Diameter of the Syringe?

When you’re using a syringe pump, knowing the internal diameter (in millimeters) of the syringe barrel is critical. It’s all about that pressure game! The pressure that a syringe pump can generate is a function of both the force of the pump (measured at the pusher block in pounds) and the physical characteristics of the syringe and setup used.

But how do we calculate this pressure? It’s simple. Take the average (nominal) syringe pump force and divide it by the syringe diameter (in square inches) to get the pressure (PSI). The smaller the syringe, the higher the pressure.

Let’s talk about flow rates. They are calculated based on how fast the syringe pump moves the syringe plunger and, you guessed it, the diameter of the syringe.

What are Syringes Made Of?

Now, let’s talk about syringe materials. Syringes can be made of different stuff, like plastic or glass. To assess the material compatibility of the syringes with a specific chemical (e.g., solvents, acids, bases, etc.), it is crucial to know the syringe composition (e.g., polycarbonate, glass), the syringe plunger type (e.g., rubber, PTFE-Polytetrafluoroethylene, metal) as well as the injection needle or tubing used to deliver the fluid.

  • Plastic syringes: Hey there, budget-conscious lab scientist: general-purpose plastic syringes are the best option! They are made from polypropylene or polyethylene plus, they’re often designed for single-use, so you can just toss ’em after one go. No worries about cross-contamination here! That’s a big deal, especially when dealing with toxic or infectious stuff. Safety first! Plastic syringes are the choice for any situation needing an inert, non-reactive syringe. While only appropriate for some applications, disposable syringes are often a less expensive choice for many laboratory purposes. Syringe capacities may range from 1 mL up to 50 mL or more. Last but not least, as far as fittings go, you’ve got options such as Luer Slip or Luer Lock.
  • Glass syringes: They’re a bit more delicate and prone to breakage, but they bring some serious perks to the table. Glass syringes are reusable, offer superior chemical and heat shock resistance, and are suited for handling organic and inorganic chemicals (except hydrofluoric acid). When you need to deliver a small amount of liquid, like in the world of gas chromatography and small dosage sample introduction, glass syringes shine bright. Injection into a gas chromatograph may be manual or automatic, but in both cases, a micro syringe is required to introduce the sample, and glass syringes are the preferred choice. And there is more; glass syringes come in multiple terminations to suit a wide range of applications. They are generally more accurate than plastic syringes. Glass syringes have small volume errors and can measure small volumes. Nano-volume syringes are even available, with capacities ranging from 500 nanoliters to 5000 nanoliters. That’s some serious small-scale action right there.

Syringes with glass barrels can have metal plungers and terminal fittings. However, stainless steel plungers’ syringes are not fans of liquids that corrode stainless steel, like HCl or bromine solution. So, choose wisely.

Generally speaking, glass syringes tend to offer better overall chemical resistance and durability and have multiple functionalities.

  • Stainless steel syringes: Picture this — you’ve got some seriously tough liquids on your hands. Glass or plastic syringes just won’t cut it. They could burst under pressure or high temperatures. That’s where stainless-steel syringes come to the rescue! When working with aggressive liquids or when high-pressure dosing applications are required, stainless steel syringes are your right choice. Stainless steel syringes have high resistance and can also handle high temperatures. These syringes don’t typically come in small sizes. So, if you’re all about those smaller-scale experiments, stainless steel syringes might not be your best bet. Stainless steel syringes are the most durable syringes available. They are more expensive and not as easy to use as other syringes because they are not transparent, making loading and removing air bubbles more challenging.

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