How the NanoBrook Instrument can be a Valuable Academic Teaching Tool

Abstract

The NanoBrook line of instruments for particle size and zeta potential analysis while a powerful and all-encompassing research aid used throughout the world can also be used for teaching purposes in many undergraduate and non-technical settings where the principles of dynamic light scattering and electrophoretic mobility are important.

Introduction

Many times throughout the year, Brookhaven Instruments is contacted by teachers, professors and research managers inquiring about an instrument that fits the criteria of an academic setting where inexperienced users would be using the instrument on a daily basis. The instrument would need to be easy to use, robust enough to handle not-so-delicate handlers, and the instrument must be able to provide accurate and understandable results.

It usually comes as a surprise to these academic professionals to find out that the world renowned and powerful NanoBrook line of instruments is also commonly used in such a setting.

Ease of Use

The NanoBrook instrument is surprisingly simple to operate and even first time users get the hang of the instrument quickly.

The NanoBrook is delivered fully assembled, fine-tuned and tested. There is no calibration process and the instrument will be ready to begin measurements within 20 minutes of unpacking it from the box.

The instrument utilizes only two cables, one to plug in to an electrical outlet and a USB cable to an external laptop or desktop. There are no special computer requirements either, any modern Windows XP or above computer will be compatible.

The Particle Solutions software is easily installed from the USB drive provided. Once the software is installed on the computer, the NanoBrook is ready to being collecting data.

Measurements are as simple as:

1. Fill the cuvette with sample

2. Place the cuvette in the instrument

3. Fill out the sample parameters (desired temperature, measurement duration, and liquid being used in the suspension)

4. Hit the “Start” button and measurements will begin immediately.

Multiple Instrument Configurations

The NanoBrook instrument is designed on an open platform allowing Brookhaven Instruments to provide an instrument to suit any application. The NanoBrook Omni is the all-encompassing configuration that allows for particle size, forward scattering, 90 degree measurements, backscattering, electrophoretic light scattering and phase analysis light scattering. If zeta potential analysis is less of a priority, the NanoBrook 173Plus allows for particle sizing at 90 degrees and backscattering without zeta potential analysis.

To add zeta potential analysis or particle sizing to an existing instrument is a simple upgrade.

Measurement Results

The Particle Solutions software was designed from the ground up by Brookhaven Instruments to be an intuitive and easy to understand software suite. The software combines sizing and zeta potential into one package so there is only one program required to run all measurements.

Figure 1 shows the measurement results for a 92 nanometer latex run on the NanoBrook instrument, the effective diameter has been highlighted. In addition, the particle intensity distribution can be visualized in the accompanying graph, in this case a unimodal, narrow distribution.

image of measurement results for a 92 nm latex
FIG. 1: Measurement results for a 92 nm latex measured on the NanoBrook instrument

Correlation function data is also readily available during and after a measurement. The correlation function is important to teach the principles of dynamic light scattering. Figure 2 shows the correlation function for the same 92 nm latex. The correlation graph and data are generated automatically by the software and this same information can be exported to common file types, XLS, CSV and PDF for external review and interpretation.

image of correlation function graph
FIG. 2: Correlation function graph and data for 92 nm latex measured on the NanoBrook instrument

Figure 3 shows the results of a typical zeta potential measurement. The zeta potential value, in mV, is highlighted. Brookhaven Instruments implements phase analysis light scattering for accurate measurements in just about any environment including aqueous and organic solvents and both low and high salt conditions including phosphate buffered saline (PBS).

image of measurement results for BI-ZR5 zeta potential validation material
FIG. 3: Measurement results for BI-ZR5 zeta potential validation material measured on the NanoBrook instrument

Instrument Operational Costs & Maintenance

Some of the reasons the NanoBrook instrument is a perfect fit for teaching labs is its cost effective operation and low maintenance. The NanoBrook does not utilize any proprietary sample cells. All compatible cells can be purchased from most any lab supplier. Additionally, the NanoBrook is compatible with non-disposable glass cuvettes to limit costs associated with consumable purchases.

The zeta potential electrode is re-used throughout the life time of the instrument. The electrode only requires rinsing with water after a measurement to prevent sample buildup. A non-disposable electrode is a significant cost saving feature which helps keep operational costs in check.

The NanoBrook instrument requires very little maintenance. The instrument is a closed system so there is no danger of alignment tampering or accidental damage to the inner workings. The only part of the instrument that is open to the user is the cell holder, see Figure 4.

image of cell holder
FIG. 4: Photo of the cell holder of the NanoBrook instrument. The square hole in the center is where the cuvette is placed

The cell holder is temperature regulated and the software will not allow users to utilize a plastic cuvette in temperatures above the melting point.

If a sample accidentally drips or spills in to the cell holder, cleaning is simple with a cotton swab and lab chemwipes. If a large amount of sample is accidentally spilled, the cell holder can be easily removed with two screws and cleaned thoroughly.

Laser Safety

The NanoBrook instrument is considered a “Class I” laser device as the internal class IIIb laser is completely enclosed and no excess light is accessible. The instrument fully complies with the FDA “Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Volume 8, Part 1040” BRH 21cfr1040:10.

No laser light is visible to the instrument user during normal operation. The sample cell holder is shielded from the laser light and prevents accidental exposure. The Particle Solutions software only initializes the laser beam at the start of a measurement. The software automatically deactivates the laser when the measurement application is closed.

Our Team of Scientists

What makes the NanoBrook a great resource for teaching purposes is not only the instrument itself but also the team of scientists who stand behind it at Brookhaven Instruments.

Brookhaven has multiple Ph.D. scientists who are ready to answer any questions that might arise including how to make a successful measurement in a wide variety of sample conditions, post measurement data analysis and future application recommendations. With over 30 years in the dynamic light scattering and particle characterization field, Brookhaven Instruments has the insight to assist in nearly all applications.

Conclusion

Sub-micron particle characterization is considered an advanced scientific field. The NanoBrook instrument and Particle Solutions software help to make measurements simple to perform and as easy as possible to understand. The NanoBrook instrument has introduced this ubiquitous technique to thousands of students and lab personnel around the world, allowing them a better understanding of light scattering: dynamic, electrophoretic, and phase analysis.

Applications: Teaching
Instruments: NanoBrook Series