Options in spectroscopy and analytical methods for life sciences were plentiful at Pittcon 2009 (the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, March 8–13, Chicago).
Smaller this year than in past years, the 60th anniversary event drew just over 19,000 laboratory science professionals from more than 70 countries (including about 11,000 conferees, over 300 students, and roughly 7500 exhibitors), and more than 1000 vendor companies.
For the technical program, Pittcon’s producers collaborated with several other groups, including the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, which contributed an excellent symposium on vibrational spectroscopy. As part of that symposium, Peter Griffiths, professor at the University of Idaho went in depth on Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. He presented product developments by such exhibitors as Ahura Scientific (Wilmington, MA) and Smiths Detection (Watford, England), plus others such as Manning Applied Technology (Troy, ID), saying of their achievements, “I would never have thought this was possible.” Griffiths concluded his talk by saying the technique will remain important and that he expects “huge advances” in the coming months and years–but that FTIR won’t be alone in this regard.
Shifts in spectroscopy
Vince Kamp of Linkam Scientific Instruments (Tadworth, England), said he has noticed “a big shift” toward the combination of Raman and IR techniques by systems developers such as Thermo and Horiba. Linkam supplies temperature controlled stages to both instrumentation manufacturers and end users.
An equally big shift–toward portable and handheld spectrometers–was clearly evident. For example MicrOptix Technologies (Wilton, ME) introduced the Surface Reader Adaptor for its recently patented i-LAB, which MicrOptix says is the first handheld analyzing spectrometer for testing liquids and solid surface colors. It performs real-time measurement and analysis of liquids and solids in the 400 to 700 nm wavelength range; the company plans to release an NIR version by June.
BaySpec (Fremont, CA) showed off its new third-generation handheld Raman system, offering high reliability and repeatability in a battery-operated package that is priced significantly lower than competing products. The TRicorder comes in two versions (a high performance model, the TRicorder-1TM, which provides 7 cm-1 resolution and returns results in less than two seconds; and a basic model, the -0TM, which provides 17 cm-1 resolution and provides results in 10 seconds) and sports a rugged mechanical design with no moving parts.
And Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL) showed off its nicely designed modular Jaz instrument which enables multiple spectroscopy channels in a single setup; the system operates without a PC, but connects to one to provide more in-depth analysis. Ocean Optics’ partner TecnoCientífica SH (Buenos Aires, Argentina) demonstrated an application for high-volume, high-speed analysis of moisture content in grain.
Advances for pharma
Bruker Optics (Billerica, MA) announced its new Tandem II, a fully automatic system for online pharmaceutical process monitoring; it combines FT-NIR spectroscopy for tablet content uniformity with physical tablet tests of weight, thickness, diameter and hardness. “The holy grail of pharma is to examine every tablet,” said Bruker Optics’ Tim Rider during a press conference. “We’re not there yet, but this brings us a long way.” He explained that liquid chromatography enable testing of 10 tablets out of a million, while Tandem II enables testing of 300 per batch.
ChemImage (Pittsburgh, PA) aims to help generic drug makers by providing a faster and more accurate way to determine particle size distribution in drugs. The company’s new Falcon II Wide-Field Raman Chemical Imaging System enables chemical imaging of particles in droplets to distinguish the chemical identity, particle size distribution of drug and other substances, aggregation, and the correlation about the location of the material in the formulation. The goal is to demonstrate bioequivalence to the FDA so that in vivo biostudies can be waived.
In a conference session titled “THz Spectroscopy: Fad or Opportunity?” Michael Claybourn of AstraZeneca demonstrated the answer (opportunity!), noting advantages (such as dynamic range and peak power) for research (particularly protein study) and pharmaceutical development. And, he mentioned, Raman and terahertz are complementary.
Sensors, cytometers, etc.
In another session, “Vibrational Spectroscopy for Bioanalysis,” Prof. Duncan Graham of the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) described his use of Dip Pen Nanolithography (DPN) and surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering (SERRS) to develop advanced biosensor arrays (see DPN + SERRS = biosensor advance, www.bioopticsworld.com/articles/355176). Pittcon exhibitor NanoInk (Skokie, IL), which developed DPN, showed off its new DPN 5000 system, which integrates atomic force microscopy (AFM) and DPN to measure 1 to 2 nm for research, along with a low-cost production instrument.
Beckman Coulter (Fullerton, CA) took the opportunity at Pittcon to introduce its new compact, scalable Gallios Flow Cytometer–and to say that the system is the first of several product introductions it will make this year for clinical and research applications in flow cytometry (see p. 34). The Gallios targets researchers, promising increased sensitivity and resolution in less time and at higher speeds.
Fluid Imaging Technologies (Yarmouth, ME) emphasized cost efficiency and compactness with its FlowCAM system, which combines the capabilities of flow cytometry and microscopy.
BioTools (Jupiter, FL) introduced µ-ChiralRAMAN-2X, which combines three techniques–Raman microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and Raman optical activity (ROA)–in a single instrument for such applications as structural characterization of chiral molecules and biologicals including proteins, sugars and viruses.
Biochemical measurement and detection company Stratophase (Romsey, England) discussed real-time determination of reaction kinetics using a optical silicon chip-based technology (SpectroSens; see p. 34) able to measure changes in the refractive index of any liquid on the chip’s surface with precision better than 1 ppm.
Each year Pittcon asks attending journalists (this year there were about 225, focused on a wide range of applications and technologies) to select, by voting, the “three most significant new product introductions.” This year, both the second- and third-place prizes went to instruments that use optical techniques.
The portable iTOC-CRD5 system by Picarro (Sunnyvale, CA) and O.I. Corp. (College Station, TX), won the Silver prize (see page 34 for product details).
And Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (Columbia, MD) took the Bronze award for its IG-1000, a particle-sizing instrument based on a clever proprietary measurement principle called induced grating (IG).
Pittcon 2010 is scheduled for Feb. 28 to March 5, 2010, in Orlando, FL. –Barbara G. Goode