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Publication Date: 2013-Feb-25
Document File: 8 page(s) / 601K

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The Prior Art Database

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vials and Machine-removable vial caps

I.          Background

The present subject matter relates to sample vials that feature machine-removable vial caps.

Sample vials may be utilized to contain samples in preparation for analysis by, for example, liquid chromatography (LC), gas chromatography (GC), solid phase extraction (SPE), etc.  For example, an array of sample-containing vials may be positioned at a sample handling apparatus, and the samples then prepared as desired and transferred to the sample injector of the LC or GC instrument.  Such vials are provided in 2 mL, 4 mL, and other standard volumes, and may include small volume inserts.  The open top of this type of vial may be sealed by a vial cap.  In typical configurations, the cap is of the type that may be crimped around the top, screwed onto mating threads of the top, or snapped onto the top.  A septum or other closure member provides a seal between the cap and the interior of the vial to prevent loss by evaporation and/or establish a headspace in the vial.  An aperture in the top surface of the cap provides access for a needle to pierce the septum and dispense or remove the sample, as well as to add buffers, reagents, or the like to the sample as needed for preparing the sample for analysis.  The septum is composed of rubber or other material that enables resealing after removal of the needle.  After the cap is installed on the seal, it is usually not removed.  After completion of an analysis the cap and vial, and any remaining sample in the vial, are usually disposed of as waste.

In the automation of some chemical analyses, it may be desirable for the vial cap to be removed from the vial by an automated device such as the end effector of a robot.  One example is a typical implementation of the QuEChERS method for analyzing pesticide residues.  The QuEChERS method may entail placing salt powders in the vial, installing the cap, injecting liquid sample into the vial, and then thoroughly mixing the sample with the salt such as by centrifuging.  The mixture is then subjected to subsequent operation such as filtration or clean-up, which requires that the cap be removed from the vial.

II.        Solution

            A new concept for a sample vial and mating vial cap is presented.  The vial and vial cap are composed of a plastic.  The vial is sealed by an interference mating between an annular rib on the vial cap and an inside surface of the vial.  The sealing interface is useful for keeping the vial clean while the vial is empty, minimizing evaporation while the vial is holding a sample, and containing salt powders in the case of the QuEChERS method.  The vial and vial cap each have an annular slot.  Appropriately configured tools, such as respective pairs of jaws or fingers, can be moved into each annular slot to enable removal of the vial cap from the vial.  The tools may be robotic end effectors to enable automated removal.  The vial may...