Automated sample cleaning technology developed to simplify prep, improve reliability


A new, automated cleaning system for geological samples that simplifies their preparation and improves sample reliability has been developed by a team of University of Cambridge researchers.


The key advantage of using this machine is its simplicity. Simply set the program up and it will do everything for you.” — Dr Aleksey Sadekov, Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research

The fOrracle machine was designed and created at the University’s Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research, Department of Earth Sciences, to facilitate the safe, accurate and easy cleaning of foraminiferal samples.

Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge, has been working with the Department of Earth Sciences and licensed the fOrracle to Gemini Technology, a bespoke precision engineering company, which was responsible for its construction. The fOrracle was built to improve traditional sample preparation methods for a variety of small geological samples. It is primarily designed for cleaning the shells of tiny organisms such as foraminifera and ostracoda, but can also be customised for other applications that require multistep cleaning procedures and accurate handling of sub-millimetre samples.

Gemini’s Technical Director, Gary Teague, said “This machine is the first of its kind in the industry, simplifying a sampling process that can be both arduous and complex to do by hand.” The fOrracle’s software can be programmed to suit the specifics of the sample being cleaned and regulates factors, which can otherwise lead to inconsistencies, such as the quantity of reagent and cleaning time required. It can also operate independently, without supervision.

Using the fOrracle can improve the reproducibility of samples, due to the measured quantity of cleaning reagent as well as regulating the duration of each cleaning step. As it is entirely self-contained, the fOrracle creates a safer environment for keeping samples, preventing possible accidents such as spillages, and protecting workers from potentially harmful chemical reagents and resulting fumes.

Dr Aleksey Sadekov, from the Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research said, “The fOrracle takes a complicated, slow process requiring skilled professionals and turns it into an easy to use, faster automatic process that can be undertaken by a laboratory technician. The key advantage of using this machine is its simplicity. Simply set the program up and it will do everything for you.”

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