Automated Use of Formaldehyde

Hello Lab Automation Forum,

I have a need to automate the formaldehyde fixation of 96/384-well plates. The most important design parameter to me is reducing potential exposure to formaldehyde fumes. My design space is somewhat open; in the past to do this I’ve set up bulk reagent dispensers in a chem hood. This was a little cumbersome with respect to the user process, ideally a liquid handler would suit the assay better. If possible, would you be willing to share your thoughts on this type of build? I have engaged our facilities team about running an exhaust line out of the top of one of our liquid handlers. Has anyone done something similar before?

Thank you!


There’s generally HEPA hood integrations for liquid handlers. More intense than that would be something like an automation enclosure. Tecan used to use Bigneat and they might still for this sort of application.

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For Hamilton systems, there are a few options. The easiest is to order an exhaust flange kit. For the STAR this consists of a 6” Flange and Pre-cut Top Plexi Panel. This kit would allow your facilities to connect to the lab exhaust system.


Note the disclaimer that the STAR is not included with the kit :grin:

We also have HEPA options but those are designed for positive air flow and only intended to keep the deck sterile so not ideal for toxic fumes. We do collaborate with biosafety cabinet companies such as Bigneat to put the entire system in an enclosure.


Hi @JBurford ,

yes, this is a very common request . HighRes Biosolutions can accommodate this requirement. sometimes the top of the LH might have an exhaust port, other times an enclosure can be build around the device itself. Facilities would just need to provide the snorkel, and HighRes can design the integration to meet your system needs, big or small.

feel free to let me know if you have any other questions/comments

We accomplished this before by integrating a multi drop combi inside a cabinet that was connected to the building HVAC exhaust. After setting up the system, we did not run a large number of fixed plates, so I cannot comment on exactly how well it worked. I am sure it was better than nothing.

Probably equally important is where and how you incubate your plates while they are being fixed. Lids on makes a big difference.

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Thank all so much for your helpful feedback! It is much appreciated. I am planning on moving forward as mentioned, with an exhaust vent out of a liquid handler.


This exhaust vent works well for us, if you also are curious in a pretty space-heavy but robust option we also use BioBubbles.


The Greenaway lab at Imperial in London use their Opentrons robots directly in fume hoods.

These are used in organic chemistry and handle the wide range of solvents really well.

One note for the exhaust vent method.

Liquid handlers aren’t a closed box. I’ve seen folks put gaskets around gaps in plexiglass/plastic but just a consideration that it’s not a fully closed system with just the vent.

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