If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Analytical Chemistry

New and Notable at Pittcon

Instrumentation, software, and more

March 19, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 12

Steve Ritter compiled and wrote these product highlights.

Pittcon Editors' Award Winners

Waters exhibited the Synapt High Definition MS (HDMS) System, which took home the Pittcon Editors' Gold Award. Launched in June 2006, the HDMS system boasts Waters' Triwave technology, which is the first method for combining ion-mobility separation with quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Synapt differentiates sample ions by size, shape, charge, and mass, which makes it a versatile technique for characterizing proteins beyond the capability of conventional mass spectrometers, according to the company. Some applications include the study of large protein complexes to understand protein folding, protein misfolding associated with neurodegenerative diseases, and the study of interactions between proteins and small molecules.

(1) Paraytec unveiled the ActiPix D100, the first capillary UV area-imaging detector for liquid chromatography and electrophoresis techniques, which won a Pittcon Editors' Silver Award. Developed at the University of York, in England, the detector shines light (190- to 1,100-nm range) through up to eight capillaries handling picoliter to nanoliter flow volumes of sample. ActiPix captures and processes the light with a UV-selective complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor similar to that in some digital cameras. This single active-pixel detector allows researchers to visualize and quantify complex reactions in real time, while the multiple capillaries allow different concentrations of samples to be assayed in parallel to increase throughput. ActiPix can be integrated into existing instruments and is geared toward proteomics research, enzyme assays and biocatalysis, and ion analysis for pharmaceuticals.

Thermo Fisher Scientific showcased the LTQ XL linear ion-trap mass spectrometer equipped with electron-transfer dissociation (ETD) ion-fragmentation technology, which garnered a Pittcon Editors' Silver Award. The instrument updates Thermo's LTQ XL spectrometer, introduced last July. The ETD technology, which Thermo licensed from the University of Virginia last year, is a "softer" large-peptide fragmentation technique that allows more complete characterization of peptides and proteins than is possible with conventional ion-fragmentation options alone. The new instrument is "a major breakthrough in proteomics" that provides significant advantages for analyzing posttranslational modifications, such as phosphorylation, and top-down or middle-down sequencing of proteins and peptides, according to the company.

Horiba Jobin Yvon presented the Activa-M inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES) for multi-spectral-line elemental analysis, which received a Pittcon Editors' Bronze Award. The spectrometer is an addition to Horiba's Activa line, introduced in 2005, and utilizes a charge-coupled device detector to sequentially analyze multiple elements at multiple wavelengths. The Activa-M operates further into the UV region than its predecessor (120- to 800-nm overall range) and includes new software tools to optimize data analysis. The Multiline Analysis Selection Tool for Enhanced Reliability (MASTER) software performs a multi-spectral-line selection according to the concentration range of each element, while the Statistical Outlier Survey (SOS) software evaluates the line concentration results to verify and reject anomalous data points.

(2) Bruker Optics debuted the compact and lightweight Alpha Fourier transform infrared spectrometer, which earned a Pittcon Editors' Bronze Award. Billed as "the world's smallest laboratory FTIR spectrometer," the Alpha has a footprint the size of a lab notebook and is designed to be affordable for teaching labs and quality-control labs. Exchangeable QuickSnap sampling modules, including attenuated total reflection (shown), allow analysis of almost any type of solid, liquid, or gas sample. The instrument is optimal for identifying unknowns or screening raw materials, such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, and basic chemicals.


(3) Shimadzu launched the Prominence Ultra-Fast Liquid Chromatograph (UFLC), which enables users to shorten analysis time drastically for increased lab productivity without resorting to extremely high column pressures and compromising data quality. The instrument, designed with high-throughput LC-MS in mind, is an addition to Shimadzu's Prominence line of modular components that make up the first HPLC system capable of being networked and operated via a Web browser. The Prominence UFLC, when used in combination with Shimadzu's new XR Series columns and an autosampler with a 10-second injection cycle, is up to 10 times faster than a conventional HPLC system.

(4) Agilent Technologies introduced the 7890A, the company's new flagship gas chromatograph. The key feature is a postcolumn capillary-flow device about the size of a credit card that reliably controls sample flow inside a GC oven. The controller facilitates a backflush of the column after each run to eliminate time-consuming bakeout and prevents sample-to-sample carryover. Another controller feature is splitting a sample for delivery to up to three detectors simultaneously. For mass detection, the 7890A is part of the 5975C GC-MS system (shown), which Agilent also introduced at Pittcon. The flow controller additionally allows "heart cutting" to divert a selected peak or all sample peaks to a second GC column for further analysis. Overall, the 7890A reduces sample run times by 30% compared with previous GC instruments, according to Agilent.

Jasco showed the Preparative SFE/SFC, a new supercritical fluid extraction/supercritical fluid chromatography system with chiral detection designed with spectral purity monitoring of chiral molecules in mind. The instrument, a low-cost and environmentally friendly alternative to HPLC instruments, sports Jasco's patented back-pressure regulator, which permits control of the system's column pressure regardless of solvent composition and flow rate. The Preparative SFE/SFC, operated by manual or fully automated injections, can deliver up to 120 mL per minute of supercritical CO2 or water and 60 mL per minute of modifier and flush solvents at pressures up to 35 MPa (5,000 psi). Detector choices include UV and/or circular dichroism, along with a mass spectrometer interface.

(5) Dionex unveiled novel Eluent Regeneration (ER) technology for its Reagent-Free Ion Chromatography (RFIC) systems. The existing RFIC eluent-generation (EG) systems allow users to generate high-purity eluents (buffered aqueous solutions) online to eliminate variability and potential contamination in concentration-gradient ion chromatography. The new ER technology takes RFIC-EG a step further by using an electrolytic suppressor to purify spent eluent for reuse. With RFIC-ER, Dionex' ICS-1000 or ICS-1500 systems using carbonate/bicarbonate or methanesulfonic acid eluents can run nonstop for up to four weeks without servicing. The continuous operation is a low-cost way to increase productivity by eliminating daily equilibration and recalibration. The RFIC-ER systems are targeted for analysis of anions and cations in drinking water, surface water, and groundwater.

PerkinElmer presented the Clarus 600 gas chromatograph and the companion Clarus 600 GC-MS system, which are designed for the full spectrum of GC and GC-MS applications. The chromatograph's novel oven design permits rapid heat-up and cooldown rates (450 to 50 oC in less than two minutes), enabling the fastest injection-to-injection time of any conventional GC unit, according to the company. The GC-MS instrument features the widest mass range (to 1,200 daltons) and best detection limits of any quadrupole mass spectrometer. Key high-throughput applications for the new instruments include blood alcohol and drug testing in forensics labs, as well as environmental, petrochemical, and food and beverage testing. In addition, the PerkinElmer TurboMatrix headspace trap can be combined with the Clarus 600 instruments for analysis of volatile compounds.

Mass spectrometry

Shimadzu introduced an updated liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry system that combines the company's popular LCMS-IT-TOF instrument, introduced at Pittcon 2005, with novel Formula Predictor software that helps identify unknown compounds with greater certainty. The hybrid ion-trap time-of-flight (IT-TOF) mass spectrometer has an ion selection feature that allows ions of interest to be isolated for further fragmentation, up to MS10. The new software analyzes the multiple levels of ion fragmentation and isotope patterns to determine the correct formula for unidentified components in a spectrum without the need for manual data processing. The LC-MS system with Formula Predictor software is amenable to biomarker discovery, trace-impurity identification, and natural products research.

East & West Analytical Instruments exhibited the GCMS-3100, which the company points out is the first commercial GC-MS system designed and built in China. The instrument combines the company's GC-4000A chromatograph with a quadrupole mass spectrometer. The gas chromatograph uses a capillary tube sample-injection system and flame-ionization detector, while the mass spectrometer has an electron-ionization source and an electron-multiplier detector with a mass range up to 800 daltons. East & West Analytical is one of the largest analytical instrumentation companies in China offering a full line of instruments and has a sales office in Fairfax, Va. It is part of a burgeoning Chinese instrument industry (C&EN, April 3, 2006, page 61).

(6) Torion Technologies debuted the hand-portable Guardion-7 capillary gas chromatograph-toroidal ion-trap mass spectrometer (GC-TMS) designed for chemical threat detection. The instrument, developed in association with Brigham Young University under a Department of Defense contract, features a toroid-shaped sample ion trap and has a mass range of 50 to more than 500 daltons. The simple-to-use, battery-operated Guardion-7 is the size of a briefcase and weighs 25 lb, so it can be carried into the field for rapid screening of chemical warfare agents, explosives, and other hazardous substances. Samples are collected and injected through the novel Custodian-10 solid-phase microextraction syringe that contains a microchip to track sample information. Torion is developing a shoe-box-sized lab version of the instrument.

Cerno Bioscience presented its MassWorks CLIPS (Calibrated Lineshape Isotope Profile Search) software, a new formula identification capability of the company's popular MassWorks postacquisition software, which debuted at Pittcon 2006. MassWorks uses a unique algorithm to significantly improve the signal-to-noise ratio, peak shape, and mass accuracy of data collected by any mass spectrometer. The software thus permits standard single- or triple-quadrupole mass spectrometers to function like a more expensive high-resolution instrument. MassWorks CLIPS expands that capability by using an algorithm to sort through the isotopic distribution of peaks in a MassWorks-calibrated spectrum and match formula candidates to an unidentified compound. Before now, this type of elemental composition determination was difficult to achieve even on high-resolution instruments.

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry

(7) Varian showcased the 400-MR nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, which the company has designed to give academic teaching labs and nonspecialists in analytical labs greater access to a state-of-the-art NMR instrument. The 400-MR incorporates Varian's DirectDrive and DirectDigital NMR technology along with easy-to-use software for reliable and fast analyses. The software permits use of complex 1-D and 2-D data-acquisition sequences covering a variety of nuclei to gather detailed information about molecular structures or the composition of mixtures at the push of a button, rather than by manual setup. The instrument's compact footprint makes it easy to accommodate in small laboratories in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and academic arenas.

Bruker BioSpin introduced the Avance III system, the next generation of instruments in the successful Avance NMR product line. This new series, available at NMR frequencies from 300 to 950 MHz, is "the fastest, highest performing, and most flexible NMR spectrometer platform on the market," according to the company. It features advanced radio-frequency generation, a unique digital signal lock for experimental stability, and second-generation digital receiver technology that together support all types of NMR applications for solid and liquid samples, magnetic resonance imaging, and hyphenated techniques such as LC-NMR-MS. The Avance III, operated via Bruker's proven TopSpin software, can handle routine sample analysis as well as cutting-edge structural biology and solid-state materials experiments.

Optical spectroscopy

PerkinElmer increased the breadth of its molecular spectroscopy instrument portfolio by launching the Spectrum 400 infrared spectrometer and the RamanStation 400 Raman spectrometer. The Spectrum 400 combines near-infrared and mid-infrared capabilities in a single research-grade instrument, allowing switching between the two regions with the push of a button. The RamanStation 400 is the first in a series of new Raman instruments designed for faster data collection at high resolution and geared toward making Raman more accessible to academic users and drug discovery researchers.

(8) Spectro, a division of Ametek, displayed the ARCOS inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer, which the company advertises as the fastest and most sensitive commercially available ICP-OES instrument. ARCOS, which stands for Advanced Rowland Circle Optical System, completes a spectrum in just two seconds and is claimed to have up to two times better line resolution and better signal-to-noise ratio than other instruments. The optical setup includes 32 linear charge-coupled device detectors for simultaneous recording of wavelengths between 130 and 770 nm. The unique optical design requires no inert gas flushing, which should bring about significant savings in annual operating costs. ARCOS is suited for ultra-trace analysis of environmental samples, analysis of organic compounds in the petrochemical industry, and metalworking applications.


Aspectrics unveiled the Encoded Photometric Near-Infrared (EP-NIR) MultiComponent 2750 analyzer, a follow-up to the EP-IR instrument introduced at Pittcon 2005. Aspectrics' technology is similar to that of standard Fourier transform infrared spectrometers but uses concentric encoding tracks on a rotating disk in place of the elements of a conventional diode array detector. In addition, EP-IR typically is faster and more stable under harsh conditions than FTIR. The EP-NIR operates at up to 100 scans per second and has a spectral range of 1,375-2,750 nm, going beyond the usual 2,100-nm limit of traditional NIR systems. It's designed for parts-per-million-level real-time process monitoring of protein purification, edible fats and oils, biofuels, and petrochemicals, as well as military applications.

Varian spotlighted the 700-ES series of inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometers designed to meet the needs of scientists working in a variety of elemental analysis application areas. The 710-ES series is an entry-level set of ICP-OES instruments designed for budget-conscious laboratories performing routine analyses. These instruments are ideal for universities and for industries that need to comply with environmental protection laws and regulations. The 720-ES and 730-ES series are built around a patented charge-coupled device detector that "delivers the world's best performing and fastest ICP-OES platform," the company claimed. These instruments are designed for high-throughput contract labs working on environmental, petrochemical, and geological applications.

HiperScan launched the SGS1900 near-infrared spectrometer, the first product in a series of planned instruments based on scanning microelectromechanical system (MEMS) grating technology developed at Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems, in Dresden, Germany. The instrument is another example of the increasingly popular IR instrument design that uses a moving MEMS diffraction grating and a single detector rather than a fixed grating and more expensive diode array detector. The SGS1900 costs about half as much as a conventional NIR instrument, and it operates over 1,200 to 1,900 nm with better than 10-nm resolution. Later this year, HiperScan plans to release the SGS2500, with the wavelength range extended to 2,500 nm. In 2008, the company plans to release a mid-infrared version, covering the 2,500- to 4,000-nm region.

[Top of Page]

Pittcon Potpourri

Labcyte introduced the Portrait 630 reagent multispotter, which provides automated precision matrix deposition of proteins, high-molecular-weight DNA, and live cells for MALDI imaging mass spectrometry and other applications. The Portrait 630 uses "acoustic droplet ejection" to move ultrasmall volumes of liquids by sending ultrasound pulses through the wells of a microplate. The sound-energy transfer to the liquid ejects 170 pL droplets (as many as desired) onto a target substrate held above the plate, such as a thin tissue section. The subsequent imaging enables users to identify locations of proteins, peptides, and drugs of interest directly from the tissue samples. The Portrait 630 joins Labcyte's Echo 500 series of acoustic devices designed for "totally touchless" microplate-to-microplate liquid transfer.

Glass Expansion displayed the IsoMist Programmable Temperature Spray Chamber, which is designed for enhanced inductively coupled plasma sample introduction for mass spectrometry and optical emission spectroscopy applications. The compact IsoMist, which can be controlled wirelessly or via a USB connection, drew much attention at Pittcon for its perceived convenience, rugged design, and consistent performance. A sample is introduced into the glass-bulb plasma chamber at low temperature by using a standard ICP nebulizer. The IsoMist then uses an internal Peltier chiller-heater to control precisely the temperature of the sample aerosol, in the range -10 to 60 oC. The temperature controls the degree of sample transport to the plasma torch for consistent sample introduction. IsoMist is compatible with most ICP-MS and ICP-OES instrument models.

Bruker AXS showed the Microstar Ultra, the latest addition to Bruker's Microstar family of ultrabright lab-scale X-ray sources for structural biology research. The device's unique anode design produces 8 × 1010 X-rays per mm2 per second, which is much higher than can be produced from any conventional rotating anode X-ray generator, and yields a brightness that surpasses that of many second-generation synchrotron beamlines. The increase in data quality and resolution, compact size, and low maintenance are beneficial for all aspects of in-house crystallographic research, including high-throughput crystal screening and protein structure determination. Bruker AXS is offering its customers a way to upgrade existing Microstar X-ray generators to the Microstar Ultra.

Bio-Rad Laboratories announced the availability of two new products for proteomics and genomics research: the Profinia tagged-protein purification system and the ProteOn XPR36 Protein Interaction Array System. Profinia is an automated low-pressure liquid chromatography system designed for unattended affinity purification and desalting of recombinant tagged proteins in as little as 30 minutes. Developed to replace traditional gravity-flow column affinity purification techniques, the system fills the gap between manual kits for purification and sophisticated instrument-based separations. ProteOn XPR36 uses an imaging optical biosensor based on surface plasmon resonance technology to simultaneously track real-time optical changes of up to 36 protein interactions in a 6 × 6 bar-coded chip array without the need for molecular labeling. It is suited for antibody and small-molecule screening; protein interface mapping; and kinetic characterization of protein-protein, protein-peptide, and protein-nucleic acid interactions.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.