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Analytical Chemistry

Agilent acquires Raman spectroscopy firm

Purchase of Cobalt Light Systems marks Agilent’s entry into Raman market

by Michael McCoy
July 10, 2017

A photo of a hand-held Raman spectrometer from Cobalt.
Credit: Cobalt Light Systems
Cobalt’s product line includes this hand-held device.

Agilent Technologies has entered the Raman spectroscopy market with the acquisition of the British firm Cobalt Light Systems for about $52 million.

Based in Oxfordshire, England, Cobalt was formed in 2008 as a spin-off from the U.K. Science & Technology Facilities Council. Today it has 52 employees and claims as customers 20 of the 25 largest drug companies and more than 75 airports across Europe and Asia.

Cobalt’s products are benchtop and portable Raman spectrometers that allow identification of chemicals and materials without opening containers. Applications include materials identification in pharmaceutical quality control and screening of containers for explosives in airport security checks.

Conventional spectroscopy is poor at detecting materials through sealed, nontransparent containers. Detection is limited to near-surface identification of materials such as drug tablet coatings, according to Cobalt.

With the acquisition, Agilent gets Cobalt’s spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS) technology. Invented by a group at the Science & Technology Facilities Council that included Cobalt’s chief scientific officer, Pavel Matousek, SORS uses two or more measurements to obtain greater Raman contribution from the contents than the container.

A second Cobalt technology, transmission Raman spectroscopy (TRS) is an alternative to conventional chemistry-based analytical testing such as HPLC. TRS takes seconds per drug tablet or capsule and does not require preparative steps, the firm says.

Paul Loeffen, Cobalt’s CEO, says the combination of his firm’s patented technology with Agilent’s product-development know-how, manufacturing skills, and customer base “will allow us to scale our operations to take advantage of this rapidly growing market.”

Loeffen will remain with Agilent as director of Raman spectroscopy.


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