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Why some cuvettes are difficult to come by

A spot shortage of the analytical sample holder affects some scientists

by Marc S. Reisch
May 30, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 23


A photo of a cuvette.
Credit: Shutterstock
Some cuvettes are in short supply.

High-end cuvettes—straight-sided clear containers used to hold analytical samples in spectrophotometers—are in short supply from the German manufacturer Hellma Analytics. So far, though, only a few people have noticed.

Evan Friedmann, vice president of Hellma’s U.S. distribution arm, says his firm is suffering from limited output of certain cuvettes designed for research. He chalks the problem up to delayed delivery of a new computer-controlled machine tool and strong demand for spectrophotometer accessories. “Hellma is currently seeing the highest order booking in our 96-year history,” he says.

Cuvettes are typically used in pairs and need to be optically matched, says instrumentation consultant Ellen Miseo. Scientists use cuvettes to place solutions into ultraviolet-visible or fluorescence spectrophotometers to measure concentrations. They range in price from under $100 to over $500 each.

Hellma has been struggling with the cuvette shortage since the end of 2017. In March, the company sent a letter to customers and distributors acknowledging a delay in the delivery of a new machine tool to its facility in Müllheim. It also noted a shortage of workers at the time “due to the nationwide flu epidemic.”

“We understand some people are frustrated by longer lead times,” Friedmann says. He can’t say when the new machine will be delivered, adding that Hellma is taking steps to increase output with the machinery on hand “without compromising quality.”

One European academician, who wants to remain anonymous, complains that the shortage is impairing his group’s ability to do some planned experiments. While the cuvettes he has on hand can be washed and reused, specialty types he doesn’t have in stock aren’t available for purchase.

Unlike earlier shortages affecting scientific instrument users, such as those for helium and the solvent acetonitrile, the cuvette shortage is not widespread. The U.S.-based sources contacted by C&EN say they are unaware of it.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin-based cuvette distributor Pike Technologies says the shortage is news to him as well. Hellma makes high-quality cuvettes, he acknowledges, but the cuvettes he supplies from U.K.-based Starna Scientific are also of high quality and in stock.


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