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Inside Instrumentation

Technology and business news for the laboratory world

by Celia H. Arnaud and Ann M. Thayer
February 16, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 7

Thermo Fisher Unveils Compact N/S/Cl Analyzer

Thermo Fisher Scientific has introduced the Titan 4000 Total Nitrogen/Sulfur/Chlorine (NSX) analyzer for the refinery and petrochemical markets. The instrument is up to 60% smaller than other NSX analyzers, the company says. The injection port and combustion tube require only oxygen gas, so they need to be replaced less often than other technologies do. It can detect NSX from the low parts-per-billion to the high parts-per-million range in a wide variety of samples, including naphtha, aromatics, and automotive and biodiesel fuels. The system can analyze nitrogen and sulfur in less than two minutes and chlorine in less than four minutes.

Companies Cement Commercial Alliances

Illumina has agreed to be the seller of DNA-sequencing products developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies and has invested $18 million in the company. Oxford's Bayley Sequencing (BASE) technology products employ protein nanopores and enzymes for direct electrical identification of DNA bases at the single-molecule level. BASE avoids complex sample preparation and the need for fluorescent labels or optical imaging. Separately, Microfluidics and Horiba Instruments have formalized their partnership, expanding it beyond cooperative marketing efforts to include joint R&D. The companies will share lab facilities and other resources for product development.

Fritsch Launches Particle Sizer

The German company Fritsch Laser Technology has introduced the Analysette 22 MicroTec plus, a laser particle sizer that measures particles in the range 0.08–2,000 µm. Users can switch from wet to dry measurements by changing cartridges. The wet dispersion unit is equipped with a powerful centrifugal pump to transport even heavy particles at a high concentration through the system.

Waters Debuts Mass Spec

Waters has introduced the Xevo quadrupole time-of-flight (QTof) mass spectrometer. The company describes the instrument as the most sensitive benchtop QTof system yet. The system's IntelliStart technology automatically performs mass calibration and continually monitors system performance. The system allows users to obtain full-scan, exact-mass measurements. It is designed to be used with Waters' Acquity Ultraperformance Liquid Chromatography and complements the Xevo tandem quadrupole introduced last year. The system's simplicity "challenges the notion that exact mass MS/MS has to be complex to deliver meaningful results," says Brian Smith, vice president of mass spectrometry operations.

Start-Up Commercializes Membrane Technology

SiMPore, in Rochester, N.Y., has developed an ultrathin microscope slide using porous silicon membranes for high-resolution imaging of nanoscopic samples such as proteins, viruses, and carbon nanotubes. The slides, which can be used as windows for electron microscopy, are made with technology developed at the University of Rochester (C&EN, Feb. 19, 2007, page 32). The windows, which are thinner than 50 nm, reduce background interference and improve image contrast. Their pure silicon composition allows them to be subjected to harsh plasma cleaning.

Instrumentation Firms Adjust To Economic Climate

In light of the current global economic environment, Varian is cutting back to reduce its costs while trying to maintain its ability to invest in new product development. Along with closing certain facilities, the instrumentation maker plans to eliminate about 240 regular employees and 80 temporary positions. The move will reduce annual operating expenses by $20 million to $24 million. Varian is also freezing salaries and restricting hiring and discretionary spending. In other cost-saving moves, Sweden's Biotage will close its Charlottesville, Va., facility and move instrument production to a contract manufacturer and some consumables production to its site in Cardiff, Wales. By the end of 2009, the shifts will have eliminated about 50 jobs. Similarly, FEI, a developer of high-resolution imaging systems, has contracted with Ultra Clean Technology to manufacture products in FEI's Hillsboro, Ore., facility. UCT may also produce some FEI subassemblies in its own Asian facility. FEI began a restructuring program last spring to reduce costs and make better use of its assets.

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Celia H. Arnaud and Ann M. Thayer write Inside Instrumentation. Contact them via e-mail to


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