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How to Maintain your Laboratory Homogenizer

Laboratory homogenizers are important investments for R&D and pilot plants developing processes to scale up to commercial production.  First appearances may suggest scientific homogenizers are not that complex.  Not true!  A close look reveals that lab homogenizers contain several complex components, all of which are capable of trapping contaminants that must be removed before processing subsequent samples.   Here are our suggestions on how to maintain your lab homogenizer.

Why it’s Important to Clean a Lab Homogenizer

Cleaning is especially critical for two reasons.  First is the complex shapes of homogenizer generators –  the rotor and stator assemblies that are characterized by extremely fine stator slots and rotor geometries.

But more complex are the bushings, retaining discs and rings housed in the tube containing the shaft connecting the drive motor to the rotor in your scientific homogenizer.

Particles that lodge anywhere within these assemblies or become trapped in shafts must be completely removed if you are following current good laboratory practices (cGLP) or manufacturing practices (cGMP)before moving on to other sample preparation.

It is for these reasons that CAT Scientific includes maintenance and cleaning in the operations manuals for its line of CAT Modular Homogenizer Systems.

Basic Cleaning Steps for Lab Homogenizers

After each use homogenizer shafts and generator assemblies (i.e. the rotor and stator) should be cleaned by operating the unit in a solvent to dissolve residues of the processed material. This avoids clogging that can occur if the material dries in place. Use solvents that do not harm the gaskets.

This cleaning operation will also draw solvent up into the assemblies housed within the drive shaft tube.

Chemical sterilization using general-purpose disinfectants such as alcohol and formalin is always a good idea but be sure to remove chemical residues by operating the unit in sterilized water and allowing it to dry.

While both of the above processes can be accomplished with the generator attached to the driver unit removal of the generator assembly from the CAT homogenizer driver will be necessary if your operating procedures call for sterilizing with moist heat. This can be accomplished with a steam jet pressurized to 2 bars (~29 psi) at 120⁰C (248⁰F). Use caution in disassembly and reassembly as generators have sharp edges.

Ultrasonic Cleaning your CAT Homogenizing Tool

If cleaning with a disinfectant and steam jet is not thorough enough to dislodge and remove adherent particles consider using an ultrasonic cleaner for complete contaminant removal.

This cleaning method is included in World Health Organization (WHO) and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) recommendations for cleaning surgical instruments to control infection healthcare facilities. It can serve as a guideline for homogenizer and emulsifier shafts and generator assemblies when exceptional cleanliness is required.

The cleaning takes place in a stainless steel tank filled with a biodegradable cleaning solution as recommended by the cleaner manufacturer.

The unit consists of a generator powering transducers mounted on the tank. When activated the transducers create billions of minute bubbles in the solution that implode on contact with shafts, shaft components, rotors and stators immersed in the solution. Called cavitation the process quickly and safely blasts away any and all contaminants on components wetted by the solution. Yet the process does not damage delicate parts.

A 3-Step Ultrasonic Cleaning Operation for Lab Homogenizers

After your samples have been prepared the homogenizer shaft and generator should be pre-cleaned by operating the unit in a solvent as noted above.

Then remove the generator and shaft assembly from the drive unit. If they are to be stored for batch cleaning immerse them in a sterile solution such as an enzyme soak to prevent residual contamination from drying on them.

Follow the equipment manufacturer’s operating instructions and recommendations on preparing cleaning solutions. In brief the process is as follows:

  1. When you’re ready to clean the emulsifier shaft and generator assemblies place them in the mesh basket that comes with the ultrasonic cleaner. If you disassemble the shaft and generator into its sub-components you can place these smaller parts in a fine screen immersion basket. Turn the unit on and, if equipped, set its timer for 10 minutes.
  2. Lower the components into the solution. At the end of the cycle remove the basket and check for cleanliness. If more cleaning is required reorient parts in the basket and replace them in the solution.
  3. When cleaning is complete remove the components and rinse them in water.

Depending on your cleaning protocols the components may have to be either disinfected or sterilized before being reattached to the drive units.

A benchtop cleaning unit operating at a frequency of 37,000 cycles per second (37 kHz) is ideal for cleaning homogenizer shafts and generators. Check with vendors for recommendations on equipment size, frequency and cleaning solution formulations that best meet your requirements.

Closing Remarks on How to Clean your Laboratory Homogenizer

We hope the above suggestions prove helpful.  For additional suggestions you might want to view our homogenizer cleaning video that covers important points.  For additional information please contact our scientists for suggestions on selecting the correct lab homogenizer for your operations.

 

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Bob Wilcox

Bob Wilcox has represented CAT Scientific’s family of homogenizers, magnetic stirrers, liquid handling and related laboratory equipment since 2002 when Staufen, Germany-based CAT Ingenieurbüro M. Zipperer GMbH established operations in North America. Bob oversees CAT Scientific laboratory apparatus sales and service organization from the company’s headquarters in Paso Robles, CA. He also is in charge of the parent company’s line of JetCat jet turbines, turboprop, and helicopter power plants for hobbyists’ radio controlled fixed wing and helicopter model aircraft. -- Earlier in Bob’s career he was involved in visual and special effects as well as camera and electronics supervisory responsibilities for the motion picture and television industry.

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