Let's talk about lab water
Let's talk about lab water
What is your most important laboratory reagent? Ethanol? Glycerol perhaps? Given our area of expertise, you won’t be surprised to hear that we think it’s pure water. All of our biochemistry occurs in water, and most of our body weight is made up of the stuff. That’s why we dissolve our proteins and nucleic acids in it and carry out most of our molecular biology in it (both in the lab and in nature).
Being such a good solvent it ends up full of stuff that we don’t really want in it, and in the lab you normally use water that’s been through several purification steps. Despite this, many wet lab researchers remain unaware of the types of water contaminants, how they can impact their experiments and how they can purify water for different uses. Fear not! To help, we wrote an in-depth guide so you can get to know your most important reagent in a bit more detail.
The pure water guide kicks off with some interesting facts about the water used in laboratories (for example, did you realise that there are 4 different types of laboratory water, each suited to different applications?). We also discuss some common problems linked to water contamination across a range of experimental processes, including nucleic acid and protein blotting, chromatography (very sensitive to poor quality water), spectroscopy and spectrometry, qPCR, histology and immunohistochemistry.
There are various types of impurity you’ll find in water. Find out where they come from and what problems (including health risks) they can cause downstream (get it?). You might also be interested to learn about some of the tools used to test water purity, something else we cover. For example, you can buy small handheld gadgets to carry out some of these tests to check your water, which can be handy to know if you are looking to troubleshoot a problem experiment.
Laboratory water (as well as water for industrial use) is usually classified using particular systems. We’ll tell you about these and discuss how the different levels of ions, total organic carbon (TOC) and other contaminants in the different grades can affect your experiments. To make your life a little easier, we’ve even included a quick reference table highlighting which grades of water are appropriate for different experimental techniques or reagents. It’s a really good idea to check this if you’re unsure; it’s far more efficient and economical to make sure you’re using the right type of water instead of troubleshooting after you’ve experienced a problem.
If you’re really interested in your water, you may want to know exactly how each water grade is purified to remove contamination. Alternatively, you might be having more serious problems with your experiments and you need this info to effectively find the cause. Either way, the ebook will have you covered. There are a surprising number of different technologies for water purification, and we describe the main ones. If you want to know how to remove ion content in your water, or how to make sure it’s sterile, you should have a read of this section.
Before you go ahead and buy a water purification system for your lab there are several practical considerations to make; we give you some good advice around these. They go from making sure you have enough space to choosing combination vs. individual water purification systems. Storing reagent grade water can be a source of recontamination, and you should really be careful about the containers you use (don’t worry, we also give you some advice on this aspect).
As a scientist you always want to look to the future, and so do we. The general direction of assays is towards increased sensitivity, for example in looking for nanoparticles at extremely low levels in the environment. For such challenges you need ever-purer water, and we talk about some of the most interesting research being done using water of the highest purity.
To find out how to make sure water contamination doesn’t come between you and your results, as well as how to select the right water purification system for your needs, download our free “Pure Water – The Essence of the Lab” guide today.
Want to delve deeper into the world of lab water? Impress your colleagues, safeguard your data and optimize your experiments