Spectroscopy shines at Pittcon 09

CHICAGO, IL--Particle sizing and analysis. Portable and handheld instrumentation.

CHICAGO, IL--Particle sizing and analysis. Portable and handheld instrumentation. Environmental monitoring and food testing. These were some of the themes evident at Pittcon 2009, the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, held March 8–13 in Chicago. For instance, PerkinElmer held its second annual Global Issues Consortium at Pittcon as part of EcoAnalytix, the company’s problem-solving initiative that addresses global imperatives of food and consumer product safety, the environment, and renewable energy.

The event, which celebrated Pittcon’s 60th anniversary, drew just over 19,000 laboratory science professionals from more than 70 countries (including about 11,000 conferees, over 300 students, and roughly 7500 exhibitors), and more than 1000 vendor companies. Pittcon’s producers collaborated with several other groups for the technical program, including the Japanese Analytical Instrument Manufacturers Association (JAIMA) and the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, which contributed an excellent symposium on vibrational spectroscopy.

Each year Pittcon asks attending journalists (this year there were about 225) to select, by voting, the “three most significant new product introductions.” This year’s first-place (Gold) award went to a portable X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence system designed for rock and mineral analysis. Both the second- and third-place prizes went to instruments that use optical techniques. The portable iTOC-CRD5 system by Picarro (Sunnyvale, CA) and O.I. Corp. (College Station, TX), won the Silver prize. With applications for both food and environmental analysis, the desktop system is based on wavelength-scanned cavity ringdown spectroscopy (WS-CRD). It measures total organic carbon (TOC) as well as the carbon stable isotope ratio (delta-13C). It was designed for ease of use, and is comparatively inexpensive at $55,000. Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (Columbia, MD) took the Bronze award for its IG-1000, a particle sizing instrument based on a clever proprietary measurement principle called induced grating (IG). The approach promises measurement of particles with high sensitivity and reproducibility down to half a nanometer.

More particle analysis

Among others promoting particle sizing and analysis instrumentation were NanoSight (Salisbury, U.K.; see “Nanoparticle tracking system analyzes polydispersed samples” at www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/343760), and Wyatt Technology (Santa Barbara, CA), whose new DynaPro NanoStar dynamic light scattering (DLS) instrument determines the hydrodynamic radius and absolute molecular weight of nanoparticles simultaneously and promises > 2X the signal-to-noise performance of its predecessors.

Meanwhile, Sympatec’s (Lawrenceville, NJ) new QICPIC instrument offers both size and shape analysis, using a pulsed light source with picosecond illumination. Another new product by Sympatec, Nanophox, promises particle size and stability analysis at high concentrations with 3-D photon cross-correlation spectroscopy--and measurement of samples without dilution.

Micropore Technologies LLC (Madison, NJ) emphasized low cost with its Vision 500 tuned optical system for on-line measurement of diameter (20–500 microns) during the production of spherical particles, and for stand-alone measurement of both diameter and size distribution. Fluid Imaging Technologies (Yarmouth, ME) also emphasized cost savings and compactness with its new FlowCAM V-1000, designed to provide visual documentation of product contamination or verification of product quality in process industries.

Big shifts in spectroscopy

Linkam Scientific Instruments (Tadworth, U.K.), which supplies temperature-controlled stages to both instrumentation manufacturers and end users, says it has noticed “a big shift” toward the combination of Raman and IR techniques.

An equally big shift is toward portable and handheld spectrometers. For example MicrOptix Technologies (Wilton, ME) introduced the Surface Reader Adaptor for its recently patented i-LAB, which MicrOptix says is the first handheld analyzing spectrometer for testing liquids and solid surface colors. It performs real-time measurement and analysis of liquids and solids in the 400–700 nm light range; the company plans to release an NIR version by June.

BaySpec (Fremont, CA) showed off its new third-generation handheld Raman system, offering high reliability and repeatability in a battery operated package that is priced significantly lower than competing products and sports a rugged mechanical design with no moving parts.

Ahura Scientific (Wilmington, MA), known for its ultra-compact handheld instruments for chemical identification, used Pittcon to launch TruScreen, a new system targeted at the commercial aviation industry that claims to rapidly and accurately screen for potential liquid explosives through the walls of translucent glass or plastic containers.

And Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL) showed off its nicely designed modular Jaz instrument which enables multiple spectroscopy channels in a single setup; the system operates without a PC, but connects to one to provide more in-depth analysis. Ocean Optics’ partner TecnoCientífica SH (Buenos Aires, Argentina) demonstrated an application for high-volume, high-speed analysis of moisture content in grain.

Advances for pharma

Bruker Optics’ announced its new Tandem II, a fully automatic system for on-line pharmaceutical process monitoring; it combines FT-NIR spectroscopy for tablet content uniformity with physical tablet tests of weight, thickness, diameter and hardness. “The holy grail of pharma is to examine every tablet,” said Bruker Optics’ (Billerica, MA) Tim Rider during a press conference. “We’re not there yet, but this brings us a long way.” He explained that liquid chromatography enable testing of 10 tablets out of a million, while Tandem II enables testing of 300 per batch.

ChemImage (Pittsburgh, PA) aims to help generic drug makers by providing a faster and more accurate way to determine particle size distribution in drugs. The company’s new Falcon II Wide-Field Raman Chemical Imaging System enables chemical imaging of particles in droplets to distinguish the chemical identity, particle size distribution of drug and other substances, aggregation, and the correlation about the location of the material in the formulation. The goal is to demonstrate bioequivalence to the FDA so that in-vivo biostudies can be waived.

In a conference session titled “THz Spectroscopy: Fad or Opportunity?” Michael Claybourn of AstraZeneca demonstrated the answer (opportunity!), noting advantages for research and pharmaceutical industry, and stating that Raman and terahertz are complementary.

Sensors, cytometers, etc.

In another conference, professor Duncan Graham of the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, U.K.) described his use of Dip Pen Nanolithography (DPN) and surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering (SERRS) to develop advanced biosensor arrays (see “DPN + SERRS = biosensor advance,” www.bioopticsworld.com/articles/355176). Pittcon exhibitor NanoInk (Skokie, IL), which developed DPN, showed off its new DPN 5000 system, which integrates atomic force microscopy (AFM) and DPN to measure 1–2 nm.

Beckman Coulter (Orange County, CA) took the opportunity at Pittcon to introduce its new compact, scalable Gallios Flow Cytometer, and to say that the system is the first of several product introductions it will make this year for clinical and research applications in flow cytometry.

BioTools introduced Ì-ChiralRAMAN -2X, which combines three techniques: Raman microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and Raman optical activity (ROA) in a single instrument for such applications as structural characterization of chiral molecules and biologicals including proteins, sugars, and viruses.

U.K. biochemical measurement and detection company Stratophase discussed real-time determination of reaction kinetics using a optical silicon chip-based technology (SpectroSens) able to measure changes in the refractive index of any liquid on the chip’s surface with precision better than one ppm.

Pittcon 2010 is scheduled for February 28–March 5, 2010, in Orlando, FL.

--Barbara Goode

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