The use of automated laboratory techniques is rapidly increasing. Significant changes are occurring both in how tasks are accomplished and in which tasks are practical and cost effective. Although the automation of a given task does not inherently dictate the use of some form of computer, the greater system flexibility achieved through software control, coupled with the recent drastic reduction in computer hardware costs, has already made this approach to automation extremely popular. The vast proliferation of computational hardware does not solve all of the problems in laboratory automation-far from it. Two major problem areas arise, development of suitable function systems to conduct the desired chemistry and development of the proper software. Today, in many instances workers have resorted to mimicking human manipulation of samples through the use of robotics. Although this approach is viable for some situations, it is far from optimal for many other applications. Laboratory automation today often involves the use of instruments designed to perform a specific task (e.g., sample preparation and analysis) on a high work load. However, there is a trend toward increasing flexibility through multi-task capability. This concept can be implemented through several means. One example would be an instrument which is configured in such a manner that it can or does obtain a wide range of data. Software quickly sifts through the results and displays the requested information to the user. This approach allows a great deal of flexibility, as different information can be obtained merely by changing the software. Additionally, the presence of possible interferences, unusual results on species not requested and even over-all system performance can be constantly monitored and presented to the user. Many of these concepts will be considered while describing a new generation of intelligent atomic spectrometric instrumentation. The ultimate goal is an automated system capable of accepting any type of sample and performing any analysis such that all desired information would be obtained. Ideally, following analysis, the sample would be returned unharmed. Such a highly flexible, non-destructive instrument is "science fiction" today, but much more limited systems based on present technology are not out of the question.
- Atomic spectrometry
- Automated laboratory productivity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry
- Environmental Chemistry