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UV-Transparent Self-Charging Lab Pipette Filler

Make a normal pipette filler out of UV-transparent plastic and put a solar panel in it.
  [vote for,

So, labs, like mine, use pipette fillers. These are basically trigger-operated air pumps used to fill/empty the attached pipettes. See link. Now, these normally have NiCd/NiMH batteries inside which need charging periodically. This is annoying all the time, but especially so when the unit is to be used in a sterile cell-culture laminar-flow hood (because you have to have a charger in the hood). Cell culture hoods are always brightly lit, but overnight they're subject to a sound thrashing six-of-the-best-trousers-down UV- style, or in English, we turn on a short-wavelength UV lamp, to sterilize the thing. So if a pipette-filler were to be fitted with a UV-optimized solar panel, it would get charged over night, also you could lose the charger, which are cheap plastic wall warts which do not stand up to frequent UV-ing. Now, while you're at it, why not put the solar panel INSIDE the pipette? no annoying bug- harboring seams and such.... you could do this by making the whole thing out of nicely UV-transparent plastic (see second link). This would render the inside of the pipette nice and sterile also. You'd have to optimize the internal components so they didn't crumble in a week or two, but that's easy.

So, a completely transparent pipette, with a solar-panel in it. No hole for the charger socket any more (another place for bugs to hide). No charger (you free up space and a wall socket inside the cell-culture hood). More sterile. Looks cooler. What's not to like?

Right, I've got cell culture to go and do.....

bs0u0155, Apr 17 2012

Pipette fillers http://www.integra-...petboy_acu_1_e.html
[bs0u0155, Apr 17 2012]

UV-Transparent plastic http://www.brand.de.../UV_Kuevette_EN.pdf
[bs0u0155, Apr 17 2012]

Quantum Dot Solar panels http://en.wikipedia...ntum_dot_solar_cell
[bs0u0155, Apr 19 2012]


       //What's not to like ?// well... you're tying yourself to one manufacturer, and with a product composed of two sections, each with different mtbf's.   

       //pipette fillers// geez you kids got it easy these days: we had to use rubber bulbs.
FlyingToaster, Apr 17 2012

       //Cell culture hoods are always brightly lit//, so use an ordinary solar panel, and ditch the batteries altogether.
spidermother, Apr 17 2012

       You mean I can use rubber bulbs?! No more spitting out 12- 3-5 solution because I overfilled my pipette? I've gotta get some newer equipment for my lab*.   

       *sp: closet.
Alterother, Apr 17 2012

       spider: they get used pretty heavily for a few hours a day. I think the area available would only provide enough power for charging. You've got about 40 square centimeters to play with. In use, more than half of that will be covered by a hand, the other half is not guaranteed to be pointing in an optimal direction. I think charging is the way. However, supercapacitors are getting cheaper and better. A possible alternative there.
bs0u0155, Apr 17 2012

       "well... you're tying yourself to one manufacturer, and with a product composed of two sections, each with different mtbf's"   

       er.... it's exactly the same component count as a normal pipette filler... it has a solar panel, but no power socket. I'll bet that power sockets+grad students are less reliable than solar panels. Power sockets are always breaking. as for tying yourself to one manufacturer? er...?
bs0u0155, Apr 17 2012

       Fair enough. I guess the part that isn't shaded by the hand is mostly occupied with the display; it's a while since I've used one.   

       Do you know how much power they use? You could estimate from how long it takes to run down a new set of batteries of known capacity. Or just measure the current directly.
spidermother, Apr 17 2012

       Cover the existing wall wart with aluminum foil. That will protect it from UV.
Vernon, Apr 17 2012

       Yes, but it'll also protect any microbes on it from UV.
spidermother, Apr 17 2012

       //it's exactly the same component count as a normal pipette filler.// .... no, I mean you've got a pipette which lasts basically forever, and a solar panel which isn't going to last 5 years under heavy UV, and you know solar panel output isn't going to be compatible between filler manufacturers... ditto the batteries (thanks [sm])
FlyingToaster, Apr 17 2012

       ////pipette fillers// geez you kids got it easy these days: we had to use rubber bulbs// Oh for goodness' sake. Mouth pipette like a man.   

       As to the idea, what's not to like indeed? I'm not actually sure that you'd get enough charge overnight to last all day, though. The UV tubes are maybe 20- 50W? And your solar panel is going to be maybe 2"x1" ? Still, it might work.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 17 2012

       // Mouth pipette like a man. //   

       Thank you. An occasional mouthful of concentrated homebrew fertilizer is a small price to pay for scientific dedication to indoor horticultural excellence on a slim budget.   

       On the other hand, my light banks would charge one of these suckers in a split second, so they would work well in my application. If I ever find one in a Chemistry Department dumpster (my usual source for lab equipment), I'll definitely use it.
Alterother, Apr 18 2012

       Why not coat the inside of the entire fume hood with solar panels then run the UV lights off the solar panels? Hang on a sec... logic circuit overload... back in a minute.
UnaBubba, Apr 18 2012

       So the UV bulbs we have are 50W, the standard fluorescent lights are 32W x 2. and they're lit 24/7 by one light or the other. My feeling is that the pipette fillers have a half life of about 5 years anyway, before the seals start to fail. They're normally powered entirely by a 8.4V 140mAh pp3 battery. This will last about 3-4 days heavy use, but the batteries noticeably deteriorate so that most work for about 1 day without the charger. There's no display.   

       As for the solar panel failing, surely the 50W UV bulbs aren't going to visit quite so much destruction as the unshielded nuclear fusion reactor that solar panels normally face.   

       As for panel size, the flat space on the side of our models could easily accommodate 4"x1 on the top and another 4"x1" on the handle.
bs0u0155, Apr 18 2012

       So the average power is about .012W. Assuming the fluoros distribute their light over a 4' by 4' area at the distance of the pipette, a 4" by 1" panel gives a minimum system efficiency margin of ((8.4*0.14)/(24*4))/(4'/48' * 64) = 0.11025. Raw thermoydynamic efficiency could easily account for all of that, which rules out my 'no battery' scenario - although you might get by with a slightly larger panel and a modest supercapacitor.   

       I think most systems that use sunlight - including plants and solar panels - cope with UV by absorbing or reflecting it, not by using it. Is there even such a thing as a UV optimised solar panel? You could use a fluorescent coating to make one, of course. In theory, its reduced efficiency would neatly balance the efficiency loss due to fluorescence in the visible lights, so the calculations should vaguely match those above; which suggests that it could just barely recharge overnight with 8 square inches of panel.
spidermother, Apr 18 2012

       Assuming the batteries don't develop a "memory" through repeated incomplete charge/discharge cycles, reducing their efficiency.
UnaBubba, Apr 19 2012

       UV optimized? of course. You find the absorption maximum (maxima?) of the solar panel in question. Buy a bunch of Quantum Dots (or the generic equivalent) that are tuned to emit at that frequency range, pepper your solar panel with them and BOOM... your UV is absorbed and re- emitted at the appropriate frequencies.   

       Remember, if there is a net loss over the week. The weekend might be enough to replenish the deficit by Monday.   

       Also, the memory effect? is that when remembering how bad old battery technology was gives you chills?
bs0u0155, Apr 19 2012

       Actually, Quantum Dot solar panels are baked.... see link... bugger.
bs0u0155, Apr 19 2012


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