So you want to start a lab


Mar 21 · 5 min read
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(This is a guest post from Jon, who makes the data dance in a transcendent way and was a chemist, CTO, and scientist before joining Homemaide!)

For 18 months I worked as a microbiologist at a nutritional supplement and cosmetic manufacturer in Utah. It was a great job, at one of the employers considered to be among the Best in the State, at the time. While I was there, a competitor hired someone to start spreading false rumors, and those efforts did negatively impact the stock market but not permanently and not really significantly, maybe a 5–7% variance, max.

The most senior chemists and scientists worked on the Gas Chromatography — Mass Spec and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machines. The scientists told me these machines work kind of like an attractive person who attends a high school or college dance. The attractive person would slowly move from one group to another. If your sample had no attractive people in it, then it move move from teh entrance to the exist of the dance (HPLC column) with minimal interaction/interest from other entities.

But, but, but — What’s the difference between chromatography and spectroscopy?


Here’s a great 1-minute video from Mr. SimpleScience that explains the differences between GC MS and HPLC. He explains:

  1. Mobile phase HPLC uses liquid as carrier and GC uses gas as carrier.
  2. HPLC uses a column with a length between 5 to 25 cm. In GC analysis columns from 10 to 30 meters are used.
  3. In HPLC separation takes places based on the polarity of the compounds. In GC the compounds are often forced to separate with temperature.
  4. Generally, non-volatile analytes cannot be directly analyzed using GC. Sometimes derivatization will be helpful to turn non-volatile compounds into volatile ones to be analyze using GC, but it does not always work. HPLC, using liquid as mobile phase, can analyze compounds which can be dissolved in liquid. Volatility is not that important here. Immediately, we see HPLC can be used on much more analytes than GC, because there are a lot of non-volatile compounds can be dissolved (at least a little bit) in water, methanol, acetonitrile, acetone, or hexane, etc. Therefore, currently, HPLC is used more often than GC.

It was pretty awesome stuff! It reminded me of when I worked out at a Magnesium manufacturing plant on the western side — toward Reno — of the Great Salt Lake. We’d use an ICP — OES or Inductively Coupled Plasma — Optical Emission Spectroscopy so we could determine how much of which element was in each of our samples. Which one of those methods works best? Depends on the sample.


Now if you’re reading this and you’re thinking: Hmm….that sounds great and all, but what are the prices for the equipment that identifies the contents of samples?

Excellent question! In general:

HPLC: $13,000+

LC MS or GS MS: $70,000+ if you want a newer version. Older versions cost less.

ICP-OES: $50,000+ if you want a newer version. Older versions will cost less.


How do I determine my budget, revenue projections, and capital expenditure milestones and time-frame?

Finding the products is the easy part. Knowing what you want, how many staff you want to run the samples, etc. is the hard part as you’ll have to lean on the finance or corporate part of your lab or company — and get their growth and revenue projections, then determine the least expensive machine you can get the most work out of, by hiring the most recently graduated college students. In other words, as Dilbert reported:


How do I tell what equipment I need for my lab?



HOMEMAIDE helps you sell your style and buy the things that make you smile, seamlessly. Our iOS app is going to drop next month! You can get on our early beta release before that! Just let us know on Facebook or here.

Any item you pass in your daily routine (say for example an HPLC, pipettes, GC MS, LC MS, ICP-OES, ICP-AES or ice cream) — ALL you have to do is upload a picture or paused video screenshot of that to your existing social media sites and Homemaide will send you a commission for every purchase your friends make.

AND — they don’t have to buy a luxury car for you to earn a commission (but if they do, YOU can earn a commission from Homemaide on those larger purchases(!!!)). Reach out to us today to learn more about how YOU can empower your shoppers to buy what they want, when they want, on their terms.

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