Have you ever wondered what happens to your sample once you drop it off at WETLAB? When the samples arrive in the lab, the real fun starts.
The sample preparation process is method specific and involves several different processes and people. During the first step, all samples undergo the same log-in and review procedure, and sample prep is where the tests begin to diverge depending on which analyses are required. Some samples, including many soil tests, require the compositing of different samples into one representative batch. Once properly split, the samples are released to the lab.
Before the samples reach the lab, laboratory scientists clean and prep the necessary equipment, and lab technicians prepare batches of samples based on the tests logged in during step one. Some tests are ready to perform immediately, and those move on to step three. For others, extractions are needed. Some of these extractions take more than one day, like humidity cells, which continue for a few months up to several years. Ensuring proper preparations are performed allows the rest of the analysis to run smoothly.
The next step for a sample at WETLAB is distillation and/or digestion. Lab technicians start with organizing samples by hold times and due dates, ensuring timely and accurate analysis. Then, we look through historical data and perform pre-prep readings (i.e.- electrical conductivity) to determine if any dilutions are needed. All samples are then organized, the sample preparation log is meticulously filled out, and reagents and standard solutions are gathered. The distillation or digestion block is heated, and once the block reaches the correct temperature, the samples are added. This process is carefully monitored, making sure that no samples boil over, and that the bubbles don’t stop during distillation. Once the method required for the distillation and/or digestion process is complete, the samples are removed from the hot block and placed in a post distillation/digestion container. Up next, samples move to analysis.
Analysis times vary by test and start with batch prepping the samples and preparing the instrument. All reagents and standards are logged here and will later be used to monitor for QA/QC and determine accuracy. When the batches and instrumentation are prepped, the samples are run through analysis. During this time, all quality control samples are monitored to ensure that the instrumentation is functioning properly and there are no problems with analysis. If any issues or unexpected results appear, analysts will troubleshoot all instruments and samples. Samples that do not meet acceptance criteria are then re-run. Potential problems can arise when samples have complicated matrices, which can disrupt equipment performance due to sample introduction errors, memory effects, etc.
At this point in our sample’s life cycle, the sample has been received, prepped, distilled/ digested, and analyzed. The next step is entering all the collected data so that it can be transmitted to clients. During this step, all the raw data is reviewed for inaccuracies and to ensure that all quality control samples have been included. All data that can’t be uploaded digitally is hand-entered by lab technicians, which is then checked for input errors such as incorrect dates or mis-typed numbers. After data entry, our sample will reach its terminal stage- reporting.
Once the sample has been received, prepped, distilled/ digested, analyzed, and entered, the final, and terminal step, is reporting. At this point, samples will have been validated, which means that QA/QC parameters have been checked to ensure they are within acceptable ranges. These parameters include checking total versus dissolved solids, Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for drinking water, cation versus anion balances, and several others. If any of these validation measures are outside of acceptable or expected limits, QA staff will determine if the sample needs to be re-analyzed. If the sample passes the validation check, the data is ready to be reported.
Our project management staff ensures that clients are provided with a complete and accurate report of all results and are available to review the report with our clients. If the sample is being analyzed for compliance, such as drinking water for a public water system, the results are also provided to the regulating agency. After reporting is finished, our sample’s submission cycle is complete!
Please contact the WETLAB Project Management Group at 775-355-0202 for specific questions regarding these processes or to schedule a laboratory tour.