This article aims to provide an overview on the transition from earlier laboratory automation using analytical flow approaches toward today’s applications of flow methodologies, recent developments, and future trends. The article is directed to flow practitioners while serving as a valuable reference to newcomers in the field in providing insight into flow techniques and conceptual differences in operation across the distinct flow generations. In the focus are the recently developed and complementary techniques Lab-On-Valve and Lab-In-Syringe. In the following, a brief comparison of the different application niches and contributions of flow techniques to past and modern analytical chemistry is given, including (i) the development of sample pretreatment approaches, (ii) the potential applicability for in-situ/on-site monitoring of environmental compartments or technical processes, (iii) the ability of miniaturization of laboratory chemistry, (iv) the unique advantages for implementation of kinetic assays, and finally (v) the beneficial online coupling with scanning or separation analytical techniques. We also give a critical comparison to alternative approaches for automation based on autosamplers and robotic systems. Finally, an outlook on future applications and developments including 3D prototyping and specific needs for further improvements is given.
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This work was supported by the project EFSA-CDN (No. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000841) co-funded by ERDF. B. Horstkotte further acknowledges the financial support by the Czech Science Foundation by Project No. 301/17/05409S. M. Miró acknowledges financial support from the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI) through projects CTM2014-56628-C3-3-R (AEI/MINECO/FEDER, UE), CTM2017-84763-C3-3-R (AEI/MINECO/FEDER, UE), and CTM2014-61553-EXP (AEI/MINECO/FEDER, UE). We dedicate this article to the first-generation inventors and researchers of flow techniques.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Horstkotte, B., Miró, M. & Solich, P. Where are modern flow techniques heading to?. Anal Bioanal Chem 410, 6361–6370 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-018-1285-2
- Flow techniques
- Automation and miniaturization
- Lab-On-Valve and Lab-In-Syringe
- Sample pretreatment
- Monitoring and surveillance