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October 03, 2018

Lab essentials: Paper is everywhere

By Mohan Nimmagadda, Product Manager

To keep your lab running smoothly, you need to have your essentials covered. And as we’ll find out, paper is everywhere.


Most scientists who have spent some time in the lab have used paper for filtration. But have you ever realized in how many ways paper appears in your experimental procedures?

In this blog, we look at the versatility of this humble material and remind ourselves of the many ways in which paper makes a researcher’s life easier.

Back to ‘basic’

pH indicator strips are perhaps one of the smallest pieces of paper used in and around the lab, but do you have any idea how many you’ve used during your career?

Indicator strips are a more sophisticated version of the litmus paper that people have used test for acidity since the early 19th century. Modern pH testing strips often contain between 3 and 6 different dyes, which can help you to measure pH to 0.5-point accuracy.

In the lab, indicator strips are a true essential due to their ease of use, fast results, and low cost.

Keeping focus

Another frequently overlooked lab-paper product is lens cleaning tissue. Essential for keeping all your images clean and crisp, lens cleaning tissues are designed to be lint-free and remove grease and moisture effectively without damaging precious objectives and filters.

People often use cloth, brushes, or blowers to clean lenses. However, these don’t always remove grease and can also leave dust particles behind, especially with repeated use of cleaning cloths.

For best results, stick to the purpose-made product, lens cleaning tissue, another essential.

A clean surface

Surface protection papers are a hidden time saver in busy labs. Spillages happen everywhere, and anybody who has ever removed paraffin from a work surface will understand the benefit of simply disposing the sheet of surface protector and applying a new one.

Surface protector papers also contribute to safety in the lab. Spillages of harmful liquids are easier to contain when you can fold the edges of the paper that the liquid spilled onto.

Did you know that heavy-duty surface protection papers can absorb up to 750 mL per square meter?

There’s always a weigh

No lab is complete without balances and weighing boats or papers, which are well-suited to measuring out small but precise quantities of powders. The use of simple disposable weighing boats and papers minimizes contamination risks and avoids the need to potentially have more expensive consumables to hand.

Aside from the standard weighing papers, there are also specialized types, for example for Kjeldahl total nitrogen analysis. These Kjeldahl papers fully dissolve together with the sample and don’t interfere with the analysis—getting the most accurate measurement by making sure all the sample is used.

A new phase

When you need to do a routine solvent extraction, you could go to the trouble of setting up a separatory funnel. Or you could just use phase separator paper, which is impregnated with stabilized silicone to create a hydrophobic filter.

Compared to using a separatory funnel or other apparatus, a simple phase separator paper takes just seconds to split aqueous and organic fractions, saving a lot of time and effort.

This essential paper allows the solvent phase to flow through quickly and cleanly, while retaining the aqueous phase. Best of all, there’s no need to wait for the phases to settle after mixing, or be concerned about forming emulsions, and you’re able to perform any number of separations in parallel.

Phase separators are another true lab essential, saving time and simplifying workflows.

These are just a few of the often-overlooked lab essentials that help you run your lab efficiently—and they’re all made of paper. So, the next time you’re making up a solution, looking down a microscope, or working with a reagent that’s less than friendly, remember that paper makes it all possible, accurate, and safe.

At GE Healthcare Life Sciences, we provide a comprehensive range of lab solutions including our renowned range of Whatman filter papers and devices, but we also remember the little essentials that make life in the lab easier.

To discuss any challenges you’re facing with your lab essentials, please contact GE Healthcare Life Sciences.

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