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Comparative Guide to Lab Evaporators

April 28, 2024

Sample concentration/evaporation is a crucial step in organic synthesis, environmental analysis, and analytical chemistry workflows. Several types of laboratory evaporators are available including rotary, centrifugal, and nitrogen blowdown, each with unique advantages. 

Here’s a guide to help select the most suitable one:

Operating Principle

  • Centrifugal Evaporators: use centrifugal force to spread the sample thinly across a surface, maximizing surface area for efficient evaporation. The integrated vacuum system removes solvent vapors, facilitating rapid solvent removal.
  • Rotary Evaporators: employ rotary motion and vacuum to evaporate solvents. The sample is placed in a flask and rotated under vacuum, while a heated water or oil bath provides controlled heating to facilitate evaporation.
  • Nitrogen Blowdown Evaporators: utilize a stream of nitrogen gas to evaporate solvents from samples. The sample tubes or microplates containing the solvent are placed in a heated chamber, where a gentle stream of nitrogen gas is directed over the surface of the samples. As the nitrogen gas flows across the sample surface, it carries away solvent vapors, promoting rapid evaporation. Unlike other evaporators that rely on vacuum, nitrogen blowdown evaporators use an inert gas, minimizing the risk of sample oxidation.

Volume and Throughput

  • Nitrogen Blowdown Evaporators: are ideal for smaller sample volumes ranging from 100 µl to 10 mL, with the capacity to handle multiple samples simultaneously, typically up to 96 samples in an array. They offer quick and efficient evaporation, with an average evaporation time of 20 to 30 minutes for a 10 ml sample.
  • Rotary Evaporators: are suitable for medium to high-volume samples, with capacities ranging from 50 mL to several liters. While they process larger individual sample volumes compared to nitrogen blowdown evaporators, they typically operate on a single sample at a time, resulting in longer evaporation times.
  • Centrifugal Evaporators: offer a balance between sample volume and throughput, accommodating sample sizes between 1 to 450 mL. They can handle multiple samples concurrently and are ideal for evaporating large batches of small samples at once, with evaporation times ranging from minutes to hours for a typical sample.

Sample Format and Compatibility

  • Centrifugal Evaporators: stand out for their versatility in handling diverse sample types and formats. Their gentle evaporation process, coupled with the ability to control temperature and vacuum conditions, makes them suitable for heat-sensitive compounds, biological samples, and complex mixtures. The centrifugal force helps to eliminate bumping and cross-contamination of precious samples.   
  • Rotary Evaporators: while widely used, may not be as suitable for delicate samples due to the higher temperatures involved in the evaporation process. 
  • Nitrogen Blowdown Evaporators: are better suited for less complex sample matrices and are commonly used in applications where preserving sample integrity is critical, such as in environmental or biological research.

Price and Ease of Use

  • Nitrogen Blowdown Evaporators: are generally less expensive compared to rotary and centrifugal evaporators, making them suitable for laboratories with budget constraints. They offer relatively simple operations, requiring minimal setup and maintenance.
  • Rotary Evaporators: are available at various price points depending on the size and features. While rotovaps offer advanced capabilities, such as vacuum control and temperature regulation, they may require more operator training and maintenance than nitrogen blowdown evaporators. They also require more manual intervention than centrifugal evaporators. 
  • Centrifugal Evaporators: require careful balancing of samples and proper selection of sample containers. They are typically higher in price than nitrogen blowdown and most rotary evaporators, but offer advanced automation features, enhancing ease of use and workflow efficiency. Centrifugal evaporators include programmable settings for temperature, vacuum, and processing time, allowing for unattended operation and increased throughput (saving researchers time).   

Key Brands

In the realm of centrifugal evaporators, several key brands dominate the market, offering cutting-edge solutions for efficient solvent removal. Among these, the EZ-2, HT Series 3i, miVac, and Rocket by Genevac stand out for their innovative designs and advanced features, catering to novel modalities in drug discovery such as PROTAC. Additionally, Thermo Fisher Savant’s SpeedVac and LabConco’s CentriVap are renowned for their strong brand and performance, making them go-to choices for researchers worldwide. In the rotary evaporator category, brands like Buchi, Heidolph, IKA, Yamato, Biotage V10, and Ecodyst lead the pack. 

Notably, the Biotage V10 specializes in sample reformatting, addressing specific requirements in HPLC chromatography workflows. Ecodyst stands out for its revolutionary rotovaps that eliminate the need for dry ice/acetone or recirculating chillers, simplifying the evaporation process and enhancing sustainability. In the domain of nitrogen blow-down systems, TurboVap and Athena Technology are known for facilitating rapid solvent evaporation with precision and efficiency. These key brands represent the forefront of evaporator technology, driving innovation and excellence in solvent removal methodologies

Centrifugal:

  • EZ-2, HT Series 3i, miVac, Rocket (Genevac)
  • SpeedVac (Thermo Fisher Savant)
  • CentriVap (LabConco)

Rotary:

  • Buchi
  • Heidolph
  • IKA
  • Yamato
  • Biotage V10
  • Ecodyst

Nitrogen Blow-Down:

  • TurboVap
  • Athena Technology

Conclusion

Choosing the best lab evaporator depends on factors such as volume, throughput, sample compatibility, pricing, and ease of use. Centrifugal evaporators offer versatility, throughput, and unattended operation, making them ideal for high-throughput drug discovery and oligonucleotide workflows. Rotary evaporators, although ubiquitous in laboratories across the world, may not be as suitable for delicate samples due to higher temperatures involved in the process. Nitrogen blowdown evaporators preserve sample integrity and are more budget-friendly, albeit with some limitations on sample complexity. Moreover, key brands in the field, such as Genevac, Thermo Fisher Savant, LabConco, Buchi, Heidolph, IKA, Yamato, Biotage, Ecodyst, TurboVap, and Athena Technology, offer state-of-the-art solutions, driving innovation and excellence in solvent removal methodologies. 

ALT offers premium refurbished evaporators from many of these well-renowned brands. Browse our selection of: Evaporators

Types of Lab Evaporators

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