Driverless Cars and Automated Pipette Tip Washing Have More in Common Than You Think

Laboratory consumables like pipette tips are often forgotten when labs across the globe look for ways to save money and the environment. Although small and seemingly insignificant, discarding pipette tips can have an enormous impact on a laboratory’s carbon footprint. Recent research conducted by Grenova Inc. has shown that the company’s pipette tip cleaners effectively clean tips without carryover and decrease a company’s carbon footprint by 93% per wash. In addition, if a 96-count rack of standard, polypropylene-made pipette tips are washed with a Tipnovus, a laboratory’s carbon footprint will be decreased by 15.18 lbs. per 10-minute wash cycle. So why has every pharmaceutical, biotechnological, and clinical lab not adopted this technology yet in 2020? 

The answer to this question can be partially answered by looking at the story of another technological breakthrough that has struggled with widespread adoption, driver-less cars. Since 1478 when Leonardo da Vinci sketched a self-propelled car, man has dreamed of a reality where vehicles exist that can be operated with little, to no user input. A working model of the driver-less wagon that da Vinci created is now on display at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy. Over 500 years later and we all are not driving around in fully automated cars because of a lack of trust and a partial resistance to change. 

A study performed involving 377 participants gathered survey responses from across the United States in an attempt to predict which factors lead to the greatest likelihood of driver-less control technology (DCT) being accepted. This study, published in the Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, used multiple linear regression to find correlations among survey responses and positive attitudes toward adoption of DCT. They found that “Perceived usefulness” and “Ease of use of DCT” have a statistically significant positive relationship with a P-value of less than .0013. The study showed a statistically significant negative correlation when researchers looked at years of driving experience and intention to use DCT. This shows that as individuals become comfortable with widely used technology, it is difficult to change their behaviors and earn trust when something new is introduced. 

Trust regarding novel technology adoption has also affected the market for credible and reliable alternatives to laboratory consumables. Technology adoption theories like the technology adoption model (TAM) work to explain the reasons behind adoption among individuals by exploring challenges that influence attitudes against use. In another study, researchers discovered that people found driver-less cars useful in situations involving highway traffic, but also found that situations involving children drop-off, vehicles with no driver controls, and areas with high pedestrian traffic increased participant’s unwillingness to adopt the technology ( See Figure 1). The same can be said for pipette tip cleaning. Over 60 million pipette tips have been cleaned by Grenova appliances in labs across the globe with no carryover or contamination of samples. But lab technicians and scientists continue to lose money through disposing plastic pipette tips and contribute over 3.5 lbs. of CO2 from plastic pollution each time they use a 96-count rack of standard-size tips. Just because something works does not mean it can’t be done better. 

Figure 1

Today, Uber tests self-driving cars on roads in Pittsburgh, PA. In the laboratory consumables industry, Grenova has proven the concept of cleaning pipette tips as its Tipnovus, TipnousMini, and Tiplumis devices are installed in hundreds of labs across the globe. Technological breakthroughs take time to adopt and become the norm in society as trust builds over time. DCT and automated pipette-tip washing both share a steep climb to adoption on the road and in labs, but the path to mainstream use has begun.