Fractionation is an important separation process where a heterogeneous substance (i.e. a solution) is subjected to a phase transition then divided into several smaller quantities based on a compositional gradient. This exploits the differential properties of varying analytes within the mixture. Rotary evaporators, or rotovaps, operate on these very principles.
In a typical rotovap setup, a liquid solution is contained in a flask suspended in a heated water bath. The mixture begins to evaporate as its temperature increases. By carefully controlling the thermal gradient, it is possible to isolate and extract compounds from the mixture based on their specific boiling points.
Pioneering rotovap technology first emerged in the 1950s, and though it has proven essential for numerous analytical and commercial laboratory processes, its limitations are beginning to show. At Ecodyst, we have developed a novel alternative to conventional rotovap systems, based on a proprietary direct-cooling method and tankless evaporation. In this article, we aim to explore some of the drawbacks of conventional rotary evaporators to explain why a new technique was needed.
Rotovaps are Expensive
The first thing to bear in mind is that there are three primary types of rotary evaporators on the market, and none of them are cheap. Initial installation alone can be a barrier to entry, while ongoing running costs associated with water, dry ice, or antifreeze bills can be astronomical – ranging up to $7000 depending on the scale of your operation.
Rotary Evaporators are Environmentally Unfriendly
All three rotovap forms are environmentally unfriendly, with high volumes of material waste and large supply chain carbon footprints. Dry ice production is energy-intensive, and the environmental cost of transportation is significant, while antifreeze systems are inefficient with frequent spills representing a threat to the environment.
Rotovaps are Labour Intensive
Few rotary evaporators can be left unattended for significant periods, requiring near-constant operator intervention to ensure processes run smoothly and safely. This can be fatal for large scale extractions where time spent monitoring equipment directly translates into lost productivity thus loss of opportunity. Antifreeze rotovaps are also notoriously slow at reaching operational states, while dry ice systems are subject to frequent downtime due to rapid coolant evaporation.
Rotary Evaporators Take Up Space
Even budget rotovaps have a large footprint, which may be a barrier to entry for small-to-medium-sized laboratories conducting multiple experiment types in one shared space. The problem with rotary evaporators taking up so much space is that they typically only perform a single function, and greater versatility comes at the cost of laboratory workspace. An antifreeze rotovap, for example, needs an additional chiller.
The Ecodyst Alternative
At Ecodyst, we recognized the need for an eco-conscious rotovap system that addresses the changing needs of modern laboratories. We developed the EcoChyll® range of direct cooling evaporators to provide a solution that is convenient, easy-to-use, and environmentally friendly, without ever compromising on performance. Our systems can be left unattended to free up scientists’ time and are available in a range of formats to suit laboratories of all scales and sizes.
If you would like more information about our ground-breaking product range, simply contact a member of the Ecodyst team today.