Smart magnetic stirrer 'speaks' to lab equipment

Wednesday, 05 August, 2020

Smart magnetic stirrer 'speaks' to lab equipment

A current problem for chemists is that, when stirring a solution in the laboratory, there is a need to check the properties of the solution and monitor how they change. Seeking to solve this problem, researchers from the University of Warwick developed the Smart Stirrer — a magnetic stirrer bar with an integrated process monitoring system.

As described in the journal ACS Sensors, the Smart Stirrer performs the function of a conventional laboratory stir bar but also features an integrated microprocessor and various sensors capable of reporting the conversion of properties of a solution. The sensor stir bar is a capsule-shaped magnet encased in plastic.

A beaker filled with a solution is placed on a platform that generates a rotating magnetic field; when the magnetic stirrer is placed in the solution, it continuously rotates stirring the liquid. The Smart Stirrer then monitors attributes including colour, transparency, conductivity, viscosity and temperature. The results are sent to a computer over Bluetooth, and any changes notify the user wirelessly.

The concept is valuable to research and design laboratories, as well as pharmaceutical and chemistry manufacturing industries, because it allows wireless monitoring of several parameters of a chemical reaction simultaneously. As noted by Dr Dmitry Isakov from the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), “The beauty of the Smart Stirrer is that it can be used everywhere, such as a sealed vessel, thus minimising the contamination of the reactor. It may give a push to new discoveries as well. It is easy to integrate the stirrer into the labware family and make it ‘speak’ to other lab equipment.

“We are still continuing research into the stirrer; the next revision of the stirrer sensor will be smaller [in] size and with more sophisticated sensors. We are collaborating with several chemists from Warwick University. This will help us to understand their needs and help to improve the device.”

The University of Warwick’s Samuel Baldwin added, “We have leveraged state-of-the-art technology to build a device with very low power consumption, a broad range of sensor capabilities and high data throughput over the Bluetooth Low Energy platform.

“The laboratory of the future is that of automation, reproducibility and safety; our all-in-one Smart Stirrer device eliminates the need for a vast array of individual wired sensors whilst maintaining the control and customisability that one would expect from any piece of advanced laboratory equipment. I look forward to seeing the Smart Stirrer solve laboratory problems and help us understand complex reactions.”

Image caption: Demonstration of how the Smart Stirrer works. Image credit: WMG, University of Warwick.

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