Newsletter - Ascential Technologies


Innovating Thermal Management in High-Throughput Biological Screening

At Ascential Medical & Life Sciences, we provide engineering support to design, develop, manufacture, and automate complex instruments and devices. This month, we are excited to share our innovative approach in addressing one of the most critical challenges in high-throughput biological screening: thermal management.

Histogram showing the frequency of temperature measurements, with most values centered around 35 degrees. The x-axis represents temperature and the y-axis represents frequency.

The Challenges

Maintaining a consistent environment for biological assays is paramount to achieving accurate and consistent results.

The following factors, however, pose significant challenges:

Tight Temperature Ranges: High-throughput assays require extremely precise temperature control. For optimal cellular growth and consistency in high-throughput instruments, we have designed systems that require temperatures to fall within a 6-sigma distribution across a 34.5 +/-0.5˚C range. In one instrument, as seen in the histogram on the right, the distribution of initially measured temperatures was significantly outside of these bounds.

Quality and Process Controls: Automated instruments, particularly diagnostic or therapy devices, require regular logging of critical quality attributes and process control parameters.

Thermal Variation Sources: Proximity to external ambient temperatures, introduction of samples, or influence from nearby heat sources can significantly affect thermal performance.

Calibration: Ensuring that heater elements are accurately calibrated is crucial, especially in compact designs, as adjacent elements can influence each other’s performance.

Our Approach

Thermal Profiling:

Diagnostic instruments often contain multiple heat-generating components, including agitation motors, vortexers, and centrifuges, which can cause local temperature fluctuations. We fully characterize the thermal profile of our diagnostic devices by placing thermal probes across an instrument to locate and quantify all contributing heat sources.

Design Optimization:

We minimize impacts of such heat sources via hardware design changes. As shown in the example on the left, the motor plate was skewing the temperatures upward, so we optimized the motor design to provide the required torque at a lower current.

Closed Loop Thermal Control:

We implement closed-loop, active heating systems with real time data logging to maintain consistent temperatures across all interfaces.

Automated Calibration:

In systems that require extremely tight thermal control, we can develop a fully automated calibration procedure to baseline each thermal cell. Calibration offset values can then be applied to ensure precise temperature control across all thermal locations. As seen in the histogram to the right, the implementation of these solutions in a specific instrument resulted in a significantly tighter distribution of temperatures than those shown in the histogram above.

Through our innovative approach to thermal management, we design instruments that can conduct high-throughput biological screenings while providing reliable and reproducible results.


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