Also known as rotovaps, in most chemistry labs rotary evaporators are a common sight. Perhaps surprisingly, since it was first invented in the 1950s, this familiar piece of equipment has not changed much.
Even though major manufacturers develop new models of rotary evaporators each year until now, the basic principles of operation have remained the same.
This article outlines how Ecodyst is revolutionizing the world of rotary evaporators, providing simpler operation, better performance and drastic reductions in lifetime costs while eliminating costly consumables.
Rotary evaporators 101
Researchers at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York described the first rotary evaporation system in scientific literature in 1957.1 These researchers placed a dilute solution over a heat source in a round-bottomed flask.
This flask was connected to another round-bottomed flask, which was partially submerged in an ice bath. The two connected flasks were then evacuated by utilizing a vacuum pump and rotated about their axes for even heating and cooling.
Original schematic for a rotary evaporator (Anal. Chem. 22, 1462–1462 (1950)). Image Credit: Ecodyst
The researchers were able to evaporate the solvent from the solution easily by evenly heating the flask containing the dilute solution at decreased pressure, which was then condensed in the cooled glass condenser. This yielded a concentrated solution in the heated flask.
Early improvements to this original design included the use of a hot water bath instead of a burner and the insertion of numerous traps between the condenser and the evaporation flask. The first commercial models were produced soon after.
From larger models for pilot plants and commercial syntheses with capacities of hundreds of liters to benchtop research models (typically 1 L capacity), rotary evaporators are employed at all scales today.
New rotovap models usually have vapor temperature sensing and digital controls for temperature, vacuum pressure and rotational speed.
Yet, the basic operating principles in the current conventional rotary evaporators remain the same as they ever were despite incremental changes over the last 60 years.
Limitations of conventional rotary evaporators
Conventional rotary evaporators suffer from some serious drawbacks despite their widespread utilization, most of which can be attributed to employing glass condensers.
Its low cost and resistance to most chemicals are why glass has traditionally been utilized in chemistry applications. These properties alone have made it the material of choice for the condensers in almost all rotary evaporators.
Glass is far from ideal for this purpose as it is a poor conductor of heat, so conventional rotary evaporators must work harder to overcome the poor rate of heat exchange through glass condensers.
Other issues with conventional rotary evaporators include inefficient vapor trapping, high operational costs and time-consuming management of solvent mixtures and dry ice.
Revolutionizing the rotary evaporator
By rethinking several elements of its design, Ecodyst looked to overcome the limitations of conventional rotary condensers; they started with the condenser. A metal condenser coil-coated with special polymers that are chemical-resistant is at the heart of an Ecodyst rotovap.
It may be simple, but this modification represents a paradigm shift in rotovap design and supplies a number of significant benefits over traditional glass condensers.2
The metal condenser, which is featured in Ecodyst’s Ecochyll X1 condenser, not only provides much better thermal conductivity (and so, more energy-efficient cooling) than glass, but it is also highly durable and has a huge surface area, which enables customization.
More importantly, the metal condenser is also strong enough to be connected directly to a pressurized refrigeration system.
This means that the recirculating chiller needed glycol or water systems can be completely eliminated, drastically reducing the amount of space taken up by the rotovap system whilst also saving maintenance and hardware costs.
A coolant circuit that is completely self-contained means that compared to any other type of rotovap setup, operating costs are drastically reduced. Using the Ecochyll X1 means that there is no requirement for dry ice, coolant or water.
The only operating cost is the cost of the electricity which is needed to power the device, which is approximately 50% of that needed for a conventional glass condenser rotovap, thanks to its more efficient design. Ecochyll X1 typically pays for itself within 3-5 years of average use because of these substantial savings.
Image Credit: Ecodyst
Ecodyst cooling technology not only provides more efficient and lower-cost operation than competing systems, but it also provides better performance: the efficient condenser finishes under a minute (compared to 45 minutes for conventional recirculating chillers) and provides much quicker rates of evaporation than traditional rotovaps.
Ecodyst rotovap systems for the lab
Ecodyst supplies two benchtop systems for rotary evaporation: the Hydrogen and the Ecochyll X1. The Ecochyll X1 is a benchtop cooler/condenser which is made for best-in-class evaporation in lab environments where space is at a premium.
Image Credit: Ecodyst
The Ecochyll X1 sets a new benchmark for reliability and efficiency thanks to proprietary smart cooling technology. The Hydrogen packs the same condenser technology into an all-in-one rotovap.
Combining rotary evaporator and condenser into one benchtop unit supplies the same high performance as other Ecodyst products in a simple-to-use format with a footprint of just 1.8 square feet.
A remote function enables full PC control and data transfer for further processing, while inbuilt digital controls provide precise management of all system parameters.
Ecodyst now provides a complete range of rotary evaporators, from 1L benchtop models like the Ecochyll X1 and Hydrogen through to the 200L Ecochyll X9 for commercial applications and process chemistry.
Ecodyst’s unique cooling technology allows researchers and industrial chemists alike to move on from time-consuming, expensive management of dry ice and coolant systems and reap the benefits of low-cost extraction and high-performance.
- Craig, L. C., Gregory, J. D. & Hausmann, Werner. Versatile Laboratory Concentration Device. Anal. Chem. 22, 1462–1462 (1950).
- How Ecodyst’s Modern Rotovap Revolutionizes Rotovap Technology. News-Medical.net https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210304/How-Ecodyste28099s-Modern-Rotovap-Revolutionizes-Rotovap-Technology.aspx (2021).
Ecodyst was founded in 2014 by George Adjabeng and Kwabena Williams. Both had a desire to provide chemistry labs with the best solutions possible to maximize productivity at a lower cost, while also creating a safer workplace environment. Ecodyst’s rotovaps improve upon every aspect of the process, providing better samples exponentially faster and more efficiently without exposing the chemist to health hazards such as carbon dioxide and frostbite.
Ecodyst’s disruptive technology will ultimately set new standards for laboratories worldwide and facilitate unprecedented discoveries in countless fields of research. The revolutionary EcoChyll® is already in use by top chemists and laboratories at major universities in the United States, and it’s only the beginning. George and Kwabena’s hopes are that faster, safer rotovaps will lead to more discoveries and lives saved in the process.
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