Aspects of liquid handling

Everything You Need to Know about Liquid Handling Robots and Liquid Handling Components

This series of webpages (our Liquid Handling Guide) introduces the concept of liquid handling and explains the fundamentals of how to perform liquid handling on an automated liquid handler. It is great for both new learners, who need to understand liquid handling basics, as well as experienced liquid handlers, who can benefit from best practices and troubleshooting tips from our team of automated liquid handling experts.

Jump to Sections of the Liquid Handling Guide by Using The Links Below

Download this information and much more with the Liquid Handling Reference Guide.

A 36-page PDF about everything you need to know about Liquid Handling.

different process in liquid handling

What is liquid handling and how is it used?

Liquid handling is the act of transferring liquid from one location to another in a laboratory, usually for testing purposes. Simple though it seems, liquid handling is important to laboratories around the world. Most testing involves checking countless, tiny samples of liquid for certain attributes. Samples can be smaller than 1 microliter (μL) and still help the lab detect chemicals, screen for diseases, and multiply DNA for further testing.

Lab scientist manual pippetting

Manual Pipetting vs. Semi-Automated vs. Automated Pipetting

Both hand pipetting and automation can be used effectively in a lab that is managing liquid samples. The method to choose depends on the application. Click the link below to learn the key factors to help you decide which method is best for your application.

close up of various liquids

Liquid Properties for Pipetting

Liquids tested in labs are as varied as the industries they appear in—everything from sticky honey to a fast-flowing petroleum. Depending on what the lab needs to test, these varied liquid types can be transferred by either hand pipettors or Hamilton automated liquid handlers.

All liquid properties are affected to some degree by environmental conditions such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, etc. Click to read more about these conditions along with their influences.

automated pipetting and liquid handling close up

5 Steps for Setting Up Automated Liquid Handling

The same general process applies when developing liquid handling methods across all labs, industries, and applications. Even though the details change, the liquids fundamentally need to be defined and optimized for use on the automated liquid handler.

Step 1: Understand the Properties of the Liquid
Step 2: Select a Predefined Liquid Class
Step 3: Run a Test and Visually Inspect Pipetting
Step 4: Optimize Parameters Until Pipetting Appears Acceptable
Step 5: Verify Volume and Adjust Correction Curve Accordingly

scientist examining liquid sample

Best Practices for Common Liquid Handling Activities

Certain types of liquid handling activities are common across most labs and can be a challenge to resolve. Click each link to learn the best practices and troubleshooting advice for these types of common liquid handling activities.

automated liquid handling machine in action

Measure Liquid Transfers

Once the liquid handling is complete, it’s valuable to be able to double check the automated liquid handler and make sure that the liquid was transferred at the correct volume. Liquids can be measured through a wide range of tests, from simple visual checks to more complex measurements that involve dyes or special scales. Explore some of the more complex methods by clicking the cards below.

Examples of Complex Measurements in Liquid Handling

Download this information and much more with the Liquid Handling Reference Guide.

A 36-page PDF about everything you need to know about Liquid Handling.

liquid handling robot during xyz calibration

Simplify Instrument Service with Automatic XYZ Calibration

Accurate movements in the Z axis (vertical movement) are critical when dispensing from a set height or when using liquid-level detection to predict the volume in a well. By incorporating Hamilton's ZEUS Pipetting Channels with integrated Z-axis with closed loop-control and 0.1 mm resolution, you can automate the XYZ calibration of your automated liquid handler.

volatile liquid pipetting in action

Tips to Accurately Pipette Volatile Liquids

When pipetting volatile liquids like isopropanol, acetone, ethanol, and chloroform, it is common to experience dripping of liquid from the pipette tip. When a vacuum is applied to volatile liquids they vaporize which increases the pressure in the pipette tip. The increased pressure pushes fluid out of the tip. Learn common techniques for avoiding drips and improving pipetting results.

pipetting robot during z axis calibration

The Importance of Z-axis Control for Accurate Pipetting

Common pipetting tasks like basic aspiration require multiple calculations to coordinate the pipette drive, Z-axis movement, capacitance, and pressure signals. Hamilton ZEUS pipetting channels bring all this functionality into an integrated aspirate command and maximizes an instrument’s walk-away time by predicting possible pipetting error states and providing meaningful error codes and recovery procedures.

pressure data affecting automated pipetting accuracy

Using Pressure Data to Address Challenges of Automated Pipetting

When manual pipetting, a lab technician can see whether or not a pipetting action was successful. But with automated pipetting, there is no user to visually see when the tip is not in the solution, the tip is clogged, or air has been aspirated. That’s why next-generation automated liquid handling instruments use integrated pressure sensors inside pipetting channels to allow the instrument to “see” when pipetting actions are successful or not.

precision automated pipetting close up

10 Important Considerations for Accurate Automated Pipetting

Learn more about the following 10 considerations:

  • Blow-out Volume
  • Reverse Pipetting
  • Transport Air Volume
  • Pre-wetting the Tip
  • Over Aspiration Volume
  • Optimize Swap Speed
  • Setting Time
  • Stop-back Volume
  • QPM On/Off
  • Jet vs. Surface Dispense