Is your evaporation instrument the perfect match to your application?

Evaporation instruments come in all shapes and sizes. There are many factors to consider which of these systems is well suited to your needs. In this post, I focus on helping you match your application to the evaporation instrument that is most suited to processing your sample requirements.

I was at a new grocery store the other day and was standing by the dairy aisle trying to find our favourite brand of yogurt. I was, as I often am, astounded at the amount of choice in yogurt. The variation in sizes is striking. You can get a pack of two-spoon colorful fruit yogurt containers meant for children, dessert-sized packages of fruit yogurt, standard-sized yogurt containers and giant tubs of yogurt for the ultimate fans, or very large families.

Of course, the tub size affects the amount of yogurt you eat, but which package you pick is dependent on other factors as well. If you buy a smaller package, perhaps you can try different flavours in one sitting or in parallel. Smaller packages are also easier to carry to work or on a trip. Larger tubs are usually more cost-efficient, and the packaging is certainly more environmentally friendly. Or perhaps your recipe calls for a good amount of yogurt, so it makes sense to purchase a bigger container.

Well, after this thorough analysis of yogurt sizes, I did start thinking that size of accessories and equipment is also incredibly important in the lab. If we look at rotary evaporation for example, I’ve already dedicated posts to flask sizes, condenser sizes and their importance in evaporation. But I have never before discussed the size of the actual evaporation instrument with you.

Let us first consider the choices you have.

  • Glass ovens – this is the most basic type of evaporation instrument you can have in the laboratory. Glass ovens can be used for smaller flask sizes ranging from 5 mL to 250 mL. Only one sample is processed at a time.
  • Parallel evaporators – This evaporation instrument can handle flask sizes in the range of 10 mL to 500 mL. As the name suggestions, from 4 to 96 samples, depending on flask size, can be processed in parallel.
  • Laboratory evaporator – These systems can work with flasks ranging from 50 mL to 5L in size. Usually, you can only process one sample at a time, unless you have a specialized accessory that enables evaporation of multiple samples simultaneously.
  • Industrial evaporator – The largest evaporation instrument available, an industrial evaporator can be used with flasks as large as 50 L.

If you are still thinking about yogurt, parallel evaporators are your multi-pack of fruit yogurts, the laboratory evaporator is your standard package and the industrial evaporator is the maxi yogurt container. And just as it wouldn’t make sense for me to buy the largest container, as it would simply rot away in our fridge, it does not make sense to use the biggest evaporation instrument for every application.

In fact, let me try to match your application to an evaporation system.

  • Small amounts of precious sample in R&D or testing labs – for such cases, I would suggest using a parallel evaporator that can process smaller volumes of multiple samples at the same time. Besides improving sample throughput, this type of evaporation instrument also reduces errors in the process as more samples are handled exactly the same way.
  • Workhorse applications in R&D, testing labs or bars, restaurants and distilleries – The standard laboratory evaporator is one of the staples in any chemistry lab. More and more bartenders and chefs are adapting rotary evaporation at their locales, whenever their modern recipes require gentle evaporation under vacuum.
  • Production and processing of natural products – When big amounts of solvent are handled, I would recommend going all out for the industrial evaporator. This evaporation system can handle up to 50 L of solvent and it offers automation possibilities to improve instrument handling and data quality.

As a side note, if you are working with foamy samples, only a laboratory evaporator or industrial evaporator equipped with a foam detector can help you distill automatically these challenging samples.

If you would like more information on this topic, how about downloading a nice infographic of a typical evaporation family? Besides this post, the infographic can help you double check you truly have the right evaporation instrument in your lab.

So there you have it. A spoonful of tips on how to select the most appropriate evaporation equipment for your needs. Do you have some suggestions of your own? Feel free to share in the comments below! If you want to tell me what your favourite type of yogurt is, do so as well! I am off to eat some frozen yogurt myself, but not one frozen in a freeze dryer…Which is actually a great idea for an experiment and a future post perhaps. Keep dropping by!

Till next time,

The Signature of Bart Denoulet at Bart's Blog