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Blood tubes separated into red, yellow, and white (blood vs. plasma) phases shown in metal rack with laboratory backdrop.
Traditional phase separation of blood samples is time consuming and can be prone to human error, but these problems can be minimized by automated laboratory equipment.
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Reduce Risk and Reap Rewards with Automated Phase Separation

Automated phase separation eliminates common pitfalls of traditional blood separation techniques


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Published:Sep 26, 2023
|2 min read
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Alexandra Sommer, PhD, is a senior global product manager at Tecan with over 17 years of experience in global and technical product management for clinical diagnostics automation and laboratory management solutions with a focus on genomics and proteomics applications. Sommer obtained her PhD at the University of Hamburg, Germany.

Can you describe phase separation and some of its applications? 

Phase separation is used for efficient separation of plasma from centrifuged blood samples. An automated workflow not only accelerates this process but also standardizes plasma separation, maintaining the integrity of samples, reducing the risk of cross-contamination, and ensuring consistent results. 

Noninvasive prenatal testing, liquid biopsy, and transplant monitoring are some examples of phase separation applications in the clinical lab. Biobank facilities also benefit from phase separation technology because they deal with a large number of samples that require precise separation and preservation.

What is the process of automated phase separation?

In the case of the Fluent® Laboratory Automation System with Phase Separator™, first, centrifuged and decapped blood samples are separated into their constituent phases: plasma, buffy coat, and cellular components. The Air Flexible Channel (FCA)™ arm begins aspirating the plasma from the samples while searching for the plasma–cellular component interface. An algorithm monitors changes between these two liquid phases, indicating the presence of a separate phase. 

The Fluent Phase Separator offers customizable parameters, including the definition of the volume to be transferred and quality control measures by assessing the normal distribution between plasma and cells in blood. This customizability allows the system to determine if the interface has been found within the expected range accurately, alerting the laboratory personnel if deviations from the range occur. 

How does the output of automated phase separation technology compare to manual methods?

Every separation is performed with consistent parameters and precision, minimizing the risk of human error. The automated process provides robust traceability, allowing laboratories to track and document each separation step accurately. Automated systems are also designed to precisely detect the liquid phase without relying on naked eye judgement, minimizing the risk of contamination from adjacent fluids. 

While automation represents a significant upfront investment, it often proves to be cost-effective in the long run. Automated phase separation technology can outperform alternative solutions such as image-based systems. For instance, it is noted that the Phase Separator is even faster than the Tube Inspection Unit on the Freedom EVO® platform for phase detection. This higher efficiency translates into reduced processing times and increased laboratory productivity.

What are the benefits of using automated phase separation in the clinical lab?

The phase separator technology on Fluent can be seamlessly integrated with other modules such as a decapper and/or centrifuge. This integration is a game-changer in terms of laboratory efficiency, not only saving valuable time but also minimizing the risk of errors associated with manual handling, ensuring more consistent and reliable results.

Fluent offers a scalable solution to address this challenge. If there's a surge in demand for phase separation processes, you can easily expand the system's capacity by adding a second Air FCA module to an existing Fluent 780 or Fluent 1080. Tecan’s  Phase Separator technology is a versatile and adaptable solution that can be customized to suit your specific laboratory needs.