Intellectual property patent status

Previous equipment used to isolate sensitive or hazardous samples for microscopy (using microscopes to view objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye) has been expensive, occupied substantial lab space, time-consuming to prepare and use, and could potentially leave the user at risk of exposure to hazardous substances. A new microscopy system offers increased safety for the user, as well as increasing its usability and practicality.



In microscopy work, there is often the need to isolate a sample from the laboratory atmosphere. Typically, this is either to protect the scientist from potentially hazardous material contained in the sample, or to protect the sample itself from gases or moisture in the air which could react with, or deteriorate, the sample. Conventionally, the method to analyse samples in this contained way was to use a fume hood or a glove box.

However, as these options were not disposable after use with a hazardous sample, it could mean the user was at a higher risk of exposure to harmful substances. This equipment was also expensive and large, taking up significant space in the laboratory. It also required additional preparation time and lacked the flexibility to easily change or reposition the sample during analysis.

The solution

A new sample containment system, developed by material scientists at the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), provides a solution for these safety and practicality issues.

This system offers a significantly less expensive alternative which also takes less preparation time, reducing costs and allowing samples to be prepared for analysis more quickly. As a more flexible solution, the new technology also removes the need for a large-scale containment housing (facilities and equipment used to safely manage biohazardous materials in the laboratory), freeing up the larger, less portable containment systems for other users.

In order to increase safety for the users and minimise the risk of exposure to harmful substances, this equipment is disposable when working with hazardous samples. To reduce environmental impact, the system can also be reused when not working with hazardous samples. This development meets an important safety need which was not catered to before with previous options.

Key benefits

  • Significantly reduce risk to the user by enabling disposal after use with hazardous samples, contaminants, or contagions.
  • Protect sensitive samples from being altered by the surrounding atmosphere or environment.
  • Can be used with any microscope or spectrometer, and is not specific to any particular instrument or manufacturer.
  • The system is flexible and portable; samples can be prepared within the containment ‘bubble’ in one location, and easily moved elsewhere for analysis or storage.
  • It is easy to use and avoids the need for complex or difficult to set-up equipment. Samples can also be easily swapped, manipulated, or repositioned if required.
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Common applications

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Scientific and medical applications

Enable scientists and medical professionals a safer, simpler, and lower cost option to analyse contagions, bio-hazards, cell cultures, biological samples, and more. This both protects the user from potentially harmful hazardous samples, and protects the sample from being affected by the surrounding air or environment, which could negatively impact or prevent accurate research, findings, or diagnoses.

Forensic applications

In forensic science, it is critical to ensure that potential evidence is not affected or changed by the air or moisture in the surrounding atmosphere. This new system allows samples to be analysed and stored in protective environments to ensure risks are minimised.

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