Syringe pumps are used to modulate a small amount of liquid flows in a programmable, customizable and cost-effective fashion.1
Syringe pumps are widely used in the medical field for a constant injection of drugs. However, for the past few decades syringe pumps have broadened their applications and have transitioned into the research field.
The technology is moving towards automation and miniaturization, as a consequence “smart pumps” have been introduced which brings versatility to research, with the added benefit of enhanced accuracy, better precision, advanced digital data storage, access to dosage guidelines and remote programming. 2-3
Advantages of Syringe Pumps
Syringe pumps offer design flexibility based on the application:
Generally, syringe pumps consist of a step motor which pushes the plunger of the syringe and ejects fluids through the needle as shown in figure 1. The design of syringe pumps may vary according to the applications. It may have either withdrawal or infusion or both withdrawal and infusion capability depending upon the applications. Some syringe pumps can accommodate multiple syringes. They can operate at very small volumetric flow rates ranging between milli-litres to pico-litres, maintaining a very high precision.4
Syringe pumps control a range of experimental parameters:
In modern syringe pumps, various parameters can be effectively controlled as per experimental requirements:
- Syringe pumps can control pressure to facilitates handling of liquids with high viscosity.
- Syringe pumps equipped with heaters offer temperature control.
- Some syringe pumps allow switching between different syringes to maximize usability.
- Most modern syringe pumps can be programmed for higher accuracy and improved control while some models can be connected to a computer to record the infusion or withdrawal history.
Syringe pumps help minimize the error during instrumental analysis of a sample:
Syringe pumps play a key role in minimizing errors within analytical instruments including high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), mass spectrometry (MS), and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS)5. Due to their precise metering capabilities, syringe pumps greatly facilitates research within microfluidic applications as well as micro-environmental domain.
General Advantages of Syringe Pumps:
- Syringe pumps are fast and easy to use
- Syringe pumps allow the user to define the total volume of fluid used in an experiment
- Syringe pumps are capable of generating high pressures of several hundred bar
- The mean flow rate of liquid in a syringe pump remains constant even with varying resistance in an experiment.6
Disadvantages of Syringe pumps:
- There are a few disadvantages that syringe pumps may present to its user.
- The responsiveness of syringe pumps can be slow, from seconds to hours depending on the resistance.
- The volume of syringe pumps limits the fluid dispensing volume
- Excessive resistance may lead to the build-up of pressure and eventual failure of the syringe pump
- The flow rate during the transient period cannot be known without flow sensors.6
It is important to consider the following key factor for the selection of a syringe pump for your experimental setup.
As a known fact, syringe pumps are characterized by their stability and responsiveness. The minimal movement of its motor determines the flow stability of a syringe pump while responsiveness depends on fluidic mechanics, resistance and the compliance of the experimental setup. To achieve the best responsiveness with a syringe pump, the fluidic resistance of the chip should be minimum.
In conclusion, syringe pumps are useful for accelerating the research and help in minimizing the errors, that may occur during fluid delivery in many advanced research fields.
1. Garcia, V. E.; Liu, J.; DeRisi, J. L., Low-cost touchscreen driven programmable dual syringe pump for life science applications. HardwareX 2018, 4.
2. Iverson, B. D.; Garimella, S. V., Recent advances in microscale pumping technologies: a review and evaluation. Microfluid. Nanofluid. 2008, 5 (2), 145-174.
3. Lake, J. R.; Heyde, K. C.; Ruder, W. C., Low-cost feedback-controlled syringe pressure pumps for microfluidics applications. PloS one 2017, 12 (4), e0175089.
4. Gray, A. H.; Wright, J.; Bruce, L.; Oakley, J., Clinical pharmacy pocket companion. Pharmaceutical Press: 2015.
5. Huber, J. F., Instrumentation for high-performance liquid chromatography. Elsevier: 2011; Vol. 13.
6. Jhuboo, N.; Rondelet, J.-C., Method and apparatus for determining pressure and detecting occlusions in a syringe pump. Patents: 1993.