Fiber optics and gas chromatography
As usual, Mitch Jacoby has written an article, “A Way Forward for Optical Fibers” (C&EN, March 16, 2020, page 28), that is worthy of study. Analytical chemists should also take note. Jacoby points out that after Charles K. Kao’s pioneering work with optical fibers, commercialization largely by telecom companies took off in the 1980s. Much before that time, a meeting took place in East Lansing, Michigan, in 1957 when Marcel Golay introduced the idea of open-tubular capillary gas chromatography columns.
The pioneering work of Raymond Dandeneau and E. H. Zerenner (J. High Resolut. Chromatogr. Chromatogr. Commun. 1979, DOI: 10.1002/jhrc.1240020617) at Hewlett-Packard led to the fused silica wall-coated open-tubular (WCOT) gas chromatographic column that revolutionized the practice of gas chromatography. A nice look at how WCOT GC columns evolved using fused silica—the same as that used in fiber-optic communications—can be found in Robert Grob and Eugene Barry’s classic text Modern Practice of Gas Chromatography, fourth edition.
Paul R. Loconto
The Stockholm Convention evaluation of pentachlorophenol noted some of the chemical alternatives described in C&EN’s recent reporting on utility poles (April 13, 2020, page 22). However, the treaty’s expert group also described some important nonchemical alternatives that C&EN did not consider. These include burying lines or using utility poles made of steel, concrete, fiberglass composite, or resistant hardwood. The evaluation found that many countries switched to these alternative pest-resistant materials decades ago. Initial costs were higher, but overall they were cost competitive because of longer life spans and reduced maintenance costs. Most importantly, these alternative materials eliminate wood treatment with toxic chemicals that endanger workers, pollute the environment, and require hazardous waste treatment. The search for a pentachlorophenol alternative should be broader than another toxic chemical.