Ultrapure Water - The Solution Behind Great Science

Ultrapure water in the laboratory

Ultrapure Water - Is This The Most Important Reagent In The Laboratory? 

Ultra-sensitive technology is facilitating scientific investigation at hitherto unexplored levels of detail. However, the resolving power of much of this equipment is highly dependent upon the quality of the reagents used for the analysis; an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) study looking to identify particles or elements in the parts per trillion range will quickly be confounded by uncontrolled levels of organic content or other contaminants in solutions such as buffers or water used to dissolve/dilute samples. 

Ultrapure Water Is A Critical Reagent For Sensitive Lab Work

Because of this, the water used in laboratory equipment feeds, buffer preparation or sample dilution needs to be of the highest possible purity, in order to avoid significantly affecting the outcome of an experiment. Fortunately, clearly defined categories of water have been devised so that investigators are able to select the right type and purity of water for the work at hand. In the case of ultra sensitive analyses, the water class required is almost always Type I water and frequently Type I+ water.

The Types of Water Purity Required For Different Laboratory Applications

Type III Water / Type 3 Water

Type iii water is the grade of water recommended for non-critical work, which may include glassware rinsing, water baths, autoclave and disinfector feeds, as well as environmental chambers and plant growth rooms. These systems can also be used to feed Type I systems.

Type II Water / Type 2 Water

Type ii water is employed for general laboratory use. This may include media preparation, the creation of pH solutions and buffers, and for certain clinical analyzers. It is also common for Type II water purification systems to be used as a feed to a Type I water purification system.

Type II+ Water / Type 2+ Water

Type ii+ water is the grade for general laboratory applications requiring higher inorganic purity afforded by standard Type II water.

Type I Water / Type 1 or Ultrapure Water

Type 1 water is often referred to as ultra pure water, this grade is required for highly sensitive applications such as HPLC mobile phase preparation, as well as blanks and sample dilution for other analytical techniques including Gas Chromatography (GC), Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP- MS). 

Type 1 water is also required for molecular biology applications as well as other sensitive techniques such as mammalian cell culture and IVF (in vitro fertilization).

Type I+ Water / Type 1+ Water

Type 1+ reagent-grade water goes beyond the purity requirements of Type I water and is used in processes requiring the highest levels of water purity.

If You Want to Work at the Limits of Detection You Need a Reliable Source of Ultrapure Water

Modern research continues to push through the barriers of detection in the pursuit of improving healthcare, informing government policy and protecting the environment. We now frequently make use of equipment to determine concentrations down to the sub-ng/L range – that’s less than one part per trillion, the equivalent of finding one person in over 140 Earth-sized populations!

Researchers conducting elemental analysis, for example, have several techniques at their disposal. The current approximate detection limits of some of the commonly employed techniques are as follows:

  • ICP-MS: <1 part per trillion
  • Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (GFAAS): <1 part per billion
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometry (ICP-AES): 1–10 parts per billion
  • Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (FAAS): <1 part per million

Trace element detection using techniques such as these is highly dependent upon having a high quality blank or calibration sample, as well as ensuring that the water used in sample preparation is of the appropriate purity.

The presence of various molecular species in the solvent (usually water) can cause peak or band structures in the data when using ICP-AES, whereas background contamination during ICP-MS can greatly affect the limit of detection, referred to as the ‘background limit’, which is especially significant at the level of parts per trillion.

Put simply, if you want to work at the limits of analytical detection, a consistent, reliable source of ultrapure water is an essential part of your workflow.

Matching Water Purity with Parameters

Selecting the right analytical technique is dependent upon the type of research being conducted, which in turn will influence the quality of water required. 

In addition to absolute detection limits, it is worthwhile considering the range of permissible error and level of tolerable contamination your particular research goals will allow.

For example, the calibration of an ICP-MS system will require the use of ultrapure reagent water, whereas a routine assay utilizing a spectrophotometer is unlikely to need such high purity of water. Not only is this knowledge important for ensuring the generation of high quality data, it will also greatly influence the costs of running the lab.

To quickly match your intended application with a recommended water type (and associated acceptable levels of organic content, nucleases, endotoxins, etc.), please download our guide– Pure Water: The Essence Of The Lab. 

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ELGA LabWater Provides Labs with A Reliable Source Of Ultrapure Water

ELGA LabWater has been working in laboratory water purification exclusively for almost 80 years, making us the world leaders in this critical lab reagent. 
If you would like to discover more about using ultra pure water for highly sensitive analysis, please contact our team of Laboratory Water Specialists. 

As an organization, we’re committed to ensuring that those working at the bench receive the highest quality professionalism, and water, possible. If you’d like to start a research program operating at the limits of analytical detection, maybe we can help – get in touch now.


ELGA LabWater offices and distributors are located in more than 60 countries and are fully trained in all ELGA ultrapure water systems. To find your nearest ELGA LabWater representative, go here and select your country for contact details.

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