Issue Date: April 4, 2011
New And Notable At Pittcon: Pittcon Editors’ Award Winners
The Pittcon Editors’ Gold Award for best of show this year was split between two companies: WITec was recognized for its alpha500 Raman imaging spectrometer with optical profile sensor, which allows researchers to map irregular surfaces of samples, and LECO, celebrating its 75th anniversary, got the nod for its Citius LC-HRT liquid chromatograph high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometer.
(1) WITec’s True Surface Microscopy technique uses an optical profile sensor to track rough or inclined topography of sample surfaces so that they stay in focus during confocal Raman imaging and chemical spectroscopy. The sensor, which works in conjunction with WITec’s alpha500 Raman system, operates on the principle of chromatic aberration. A white light point source focuses on the sample surface, and then the reflected light is collected by a chromatic lens and analyzed by the spectrometer. The wavelength of detected light depends on the focal distance; thus, the varying wavelengths detected as the sensor rasters over the sample surface allow topography mapping along with the spectral analysis. The instrument scans areas up to 50×100 mm with a spatial resolution of 100 nm vertically and 10 μm laterally. By using an atomic force microscope in conjunction with the system, smaller areas of interest can be explored down to 1 nm resolution. The instrument is useful for characterizing micromechanical, medical, and semiconductor devices; mapping functionalized surfaces; and imaging biomedical and pharmaceutical surface properties.
The Citius (Latin for faster) boasts the new standard for the highest mass resolving power and fastest acquisition rate for LC/MS on the market (see page 38 for image). The instrument uses LECO’s folded flight path technology, which includes a pair of gridless mirrors that electrostatically reflect sample ions back and forth to increase the path length—up to 64 bounces to achieve a path length of up 40 meters in an instrument just 1.3 meters wide. This design enables mass resolving power up to 100,000 with data acquisition at 200 spectra per second—which is important for the spectrometer to keep up with the fast liquid chromatograph. Other instruments are capable of that level of mass resolving power but at only one to two scans per second, or they can acquire spectra faster but at lower resolution. The Citius LC-HRT system includes the mass spectrometer paired with Agilent’s 1260 or 1290 HPLC systems and fitted for electrospray, atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI), and desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) modes. The instrument comes with advanced peak deconvolution software for accurate peak identification and is geared toward biomarker analysis and high-throughput small-molecule analysis.
(2) EMD Millipore debuted the Samplicity Filtration System, a semiautomated alternative to manual syringe-tip membrane filters for preparing liquid chromatography samples. Syringe-tip filtration can be a bottleneck, slowing down researchers who have only a handful of samples to prepare daily. On the other hand, robotic systems using multiwell plates to process hundreds of samples are expensive and overkill for labs that handle only a few dozen samples per day. Samplicity, which garnered the Pittcon Editors’ Silver Award, provides an intermediate high-throughput option that fits the needs of most labs. Rather than slowly squeezing out one sample at a time, which takes minutes, the system allows researchers to process up to eight samples simultaneously in seconds by vacuum filtration, including samples with high viscosity or containing particulates. It works by loading as little as 200 μL of sample into the disposable funnel-shaped filter units with a pipette, opening the vacuum manifold connected to a house vacuum line or a vacuum pump, and watching the samples filter directly into LC vials ready for analysis.
(3) AstraNet Systems took home the Pittcon Editors’ Bronze Award for the AstraGene low-volume spectrophotometer, which is designed for nondestructive nucleic acid and protein concentration and purity measurements. The AstraGene features a special sample holder for a pipette that lets the pipette tip double as a cuvette for the spectrometer so that no precious sample is used up or contaminated. Fiber-optic cables connect to the holder, effectively bringing the pulsed xenon light source and charge-coupled device (CCD) array detector (220 to 850 nm) to the pipette tip for fast and easy analysis of as little as 2 μL of sample. AstraGene’s “through the tip” technique was developed for routine lab analysis of RNA, DNA, and proteins to monitor the nucleic acid peak, organic and protein contamination, and turbidity.
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