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Optofluidics Pathways: Optimizing Fluidic Valve Selection: Selecting the right valve for your specific needs is a specialist skill.

Designers achieve faster development time and maintain better control and consistency over their instrument package when they are able to focus on their main priorities, such as chemistry, software and assay development. Specialized vendors can take on the role of optimizing their optofluidics--optics, fluidics, microfluidics--however, the industry should work more collaboratively with customers, sharing expertise and knowledge wherever possible along the way.

For fluidics, the need for highly precise fluid control and delivery is paramount, particularly with the increasing application of biological reagents, the analyses of extremely small samples, and the desire for high throughout and minimal carryover. Achieving these goals within a flow path with little resistance to fluid flow and a high degree of control requires significant expertise.

For many automated fluid control applications, rotary shear valves coupled to manifolds are a favorable choice for the instrument designer--used for tasks such as solvent selection, flow switching and injecting samples into flowing streams. Rotary shear valves have been the backbone of the chromatography industry for many years, due to their cleanly swept internal volumes and ability to handle larger pressure ranges than similarly-sized solenoid, spool, plug or pinch valves.

Selecting the right valve

Selecting the right valve for your specific R&D needs is a specialist skill. The priorities set out for valve selection should include:

Priority 1--Groove pattern. The first priority is to choose a valve based on its rotor groove pattern. This defines what the valve will actually do in a fluidic circuit, along with the rotor indexing.

Priority 2--Pressure rating. Selecting a valve according to its pressure handling capability is the second priority. Valves rated for too low a pressure than required in a fluidic circuit could get damaged or leak under higher pressure conditions. On the other hand, valves that are over-rated for pressure can possess small passageways that are too restrictive at high flow rates when used in a fluidic application.

Priority 3--Valve geometry. There are a number of connection options that are available for the design (fitting, tubing or manifold). Some designs use compact ferrule clusters to make connections, some designs adapt readily to manifolds, while others utilize a set of industry standard Metric or Imperial fittings to connect to other devices. The choice of connection will often dictate how user-friendly or serviceable a specific instrument is in its final form.

Priority 4--All other differentiators. After we have selected valves based on function, pressure handling and geometrical concerns, valves can further be differentiated according to the materials they are composed of, the footprint of the actuated valve, wetted materials or designer familiarity, among a host of other criteria.

Now you have selected the most appropriate valve for your work, here are some top tips for valve optimization:

* Be aware of the chemical compatibility of all the reagents used in your system, and make sure you test them against a real life valve during the validation of your equipment.

* As you design your fluid path, be aware that rotor grooves pass by adjacent ports in the stator as the rotor sweeps through its trajectory. Make sure you do not accidentally let gravity or pressure mix fluids that should not be getting mixed.

* Make sure that as you tighten a fitting into the valve port, you keep the tube pushed all the way to the bottom until the fitting is snug on the tube. This will keep you from accidentally introducing dead volume if the tube moves.

* It is always a good idea to look down inside a port before tightening a new fitting in. Look for old ferrules that have been left behind, or perhaps other debris.

Valves is just one area in which specialized vendors can help companies to optimize their fluidics systems. Additional building blocks in fluidic instruments can be components, such as displacement piston pumps for work in automated analyses.

These are specific examples, within fluidics, of how we are entering a time of accelerating intricacy in design and engineering challenges. Keeping pace is going to be central to success for many life science organizations, meaning vendors will be more willing to utilize the expertise of key partners for developing and optimizing not just fluidics, but whole optofluidic systems.

What is the future for optofluidics?

Innovation, and the speed of innovation, is highly dependent on collaborations in the life science sector. Supplier relationship management is a vital component to this success, as suppliers not only provide the components needed in R&D, but they can also be an important source of information and advice.

A recent Forbes Insight survey found that 68 percent of life science executives feel an active and meaningful collaboration with their suppliers contributes significantly to their future success. There is, however, still a long way to go with the current approach to "mitigating risks" creating hidden and unnecessary complexities, uncertainty and even additional risk. Critical considerations for achieving stronger supplier relationships include culture change, transforming supplier selection, setting protocols for IP sharing and improving communication.

By redefining the traditional supplier/customer relationship, we will move towards a new era of mutually beneficial collaboration for intricate technologies, such as optofluidics.

The design, development and optimization stages all require the cooperation of key suppliers, all while helping you balance budgets, time-to-market and mitigating risk. Suppliers' specialist optofluidics knowledge, combined with unique partner innovation tools, will support customers in accelerating time-to-market by generating new opportunities with high-impact, effective ideas that support business growth and increase profitability.

By Darren Lewis, Ph.D., IVD/Bio R&D IDEX Health & Science LLC
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Title Annotation:OPTOFLUIDICS
Author:Lewis, Darren
Publication:Laboratory Equipment
Date:Feb 1, 2019
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