First Impressions At Pittcon – Final Edition
Mar05

First Impressions At Pittcon – Final Edition

I don’t have the time to fully understand zeta potential, so of course I go to Wikipedia, according to which: “Zeta potential is an abbreviation for electrokinetic potential in colloidal systems. In the colloidal chemistry literature, it is usually denoted using the Greek letter zeta, hence ζ-potential. From a theoretical viewpoint, zeta potential is electric potential in the interfacial double layer (DL) at the location of the slipping plane versus a point in the bulk fluid away from the interface. In other words, zeta potential is the potential difference between the dispersion medium and the stationary layer of fluid attached to the dispersed particle.” Okay, that makes my head ache. And thank goodness, Steven Trainoff, director of engineering at Wyatt Technology assures me that even if I don’t exactly know what zeta potential is, I could still appreciate the importance of an instrument they are introducing at Pittcon 2010, the Möbiuζ, which Wyatt claims can more precisely and easily measure the electrophoretic mobility of proteins than other methods. Accurate measurement of protein electrophoretic mobility—which is related to the zeta potential—is especially important in formulating protein drugs. That’s because protein drugs must be charged in a formulation. The charge must be high enough to ensure that proteins are stable—individual molecules repel each other—but not so high that not enough molecules can be crammed in the formulation. It’s therefore critical to know the charge on the molecule, which can be inferred from the electrophoretic mobility. Now, many instruments out there can measure electrophoretic mobility, Trainoff says, but they are not good with small proteins, such as the 14.4-kilodalton lysozyme, in the high concentration that they exist in a formulation. That’s because as proteins become smaller, the noise from diffusion becomes too much. Wyatt’s new optical instrument solves this problem by using an array of 30 photodiode detectors instead of the usual single detector. The massively parallel detection system means faster detection and higher sensitivity than is possible with other instruments. For example, Wyatt’s Möbiu? can determine the electrophoretic mobility of a 1-mg/mL sample of immunoglobulin G in about 30 seconds. Watch out for the March 29 issue for C&EN’s official coverage of Pittcon 2010. Senior Correspondent Stu Borman will summarize the highlights and trends, Senior Correspondent Steve Ritter will compile the most noteworthy instruments on display, and Senior Editors Celia Henry and Mitch Jacoby will report from the technical...

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First Impressions At Pittcon – Part 4
Mar04

First Impressions At Pittcon – Part 4

I had back-to-back meetings with 10 companies while at Pittcon; some of them I've mentioned in earlier posts. The one that left a deep impression is Anasazi, a maker of 60- and 90-MHz FT-NMR instruments that sells 90% of its products to the education market: community colleges, 4-year colleges, and even high schools. I completed my chemistry education without ever seeing, let alone using, an NMR instrument, and I'm so excited that high school and college students can actually use, touch, and manipulate the machine instead of just learning how to read and interpret the spectra, thanks to affordable and low-maintenance products such as those from Anasazi. Don Bouchard, president of Anasazi, tells me that Anasazi FT-NMRs are ideal for the education market because they do not use superconducting magnets that need gases and cryogenic conditions to operate. The company does have a few industry customers, he says, for applications that can be optimally executed with the 60- and 90-MHz instruments. The difference in price, according to Don, is significant: about $100,000 for an Anasazi instrument, including a five-year warranty vs about $225,000 + $15-30,000/per year in maintenance costs for a 400-MHz spectrometer with a superconducting magnet. Anasazi NMR spectrometers are installed at three U.S. high schools and many colleges, including at least 20 community colleges in California, Don says. Although Anasazi's primary customers are from academia, Don and his wife, Julie, are at Pittcon in hopes of attracting customers from industry and government labs. Those of you chemistry teachers with some Department of Education Title III money might want to talk to...

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First Impressions Of Pittcon–Part 3
Mar02

First Impressions Of Pittcon–Part 3

C&EN's full coverage of Pittcon 2010 will appear in the March 29 issue. In that issue, C&EN reporters Celia Arnaud, Stu Borman, Mitch Jacoby, and Steve Ritter will synthesize the four-day scientific and exhibition fest on instrumentation/analytics in highlights of product introductions, technical sessions, and industry trends. Their stories will be C&EN's definitive take on Pittcon. What I am posting are my mere musings. We just finished from the first ever C&EN luncheon at Pittcon, attended by 100 guests. Not a bad crowd, considering that Tuesday is the second day of the exhibition. Our luncheon guest speakers were Frank Witney, president and CEO of Dionex, and Greg Herrema, senior vice president and president of analytical instruments at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Both made a strong case of the complexity of analytical challenges in the 21st century, as well as the ability of the instrumentation/analytics to develop new methods and tools to meet these challenges. So far so good. At Q&A period, though, not one person in the audience asked a question. What's with that? Are people too busy, shy, wary to participate? Any ideas about how to encourage discussion during a luncheon? Altogether, the luncheon was fine. As moderator, I asked a question with several follow ups that I think the speakers and the audience appreciated. I'm still figuring out zeta potential, but I have to catch my flight back to Washington, DC now. Photo credit (both): Peter Cutts...

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First Impressions at Pittcon—Part 2
Mar02

First Impressions at Pittcon—Part 2

As I said yesterday, what Frank O’Connor of Heidolph Brinkmann is really excited about is Demo for Donations, which the company will implement at the ACS national meeting in San Francisco on March 21-25. According to O’Connor, Demo for Donations works like this: Meeting attendees sign up for a product demonstration at Heidolph’s booth, #1110, and Heidolph will contribute $10 per sign up to the Red Cross earthquake relief fund for Haiti. Instead of mints, ballpens, or any of the usual freebie trinkets at exhibitions to get people to stop at their booth, Heidolph believes that Demo for Donations will attract more traffic because, as O’Connor’s explains, it offers attendees “a way to give something back to the community.” I warned O’Connor that the San Francisco might attract more than 12,000 people, and Heidolph could be deluged with sign ups. O’Connor’s expectations are conservative, about 1,500. Well, ACS national meeting attendees, perhaps you can help O’Connor exceed expectations. Again the place to do something good for Haiti in San Francisco is booth #1110. From Heidolph, I next visited Wyatt Technologies. They’re excited about a new instrument that measures something related to zeta potential and has a key application in protein drug formulation. I’ll tell more about this advance in Part 3. Right now I have to understand what zeta potential is. Can anyone...

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First Impressions At Pittcon
Mar01

First Impressions At Pittcon

For Pittcon 2010, the Orange County Convention Center is in its full glory. It's one of the most beautiful convention centers in the county, said Annette Wilson, president of Pittcon 2010, at the opening ceremonies this morning, and I agree. It looks gorgeous from the outside. It is also huge, so huge that despite hosting more than 2,000 booths, more than 1000 exhibitors, and more than 2,000 technical papers, Pittcon occupies only the West Section. Advance registration totals more than 14,000. I've had interesting conversations since the first function I attended, the Waters Symposium Dinner last night. There I met James A. de Haseth, a senior partner of a company based in Georgia called Light Light Solutions. It makes instruments that help analyze fibers as they are processed for various uses, including as alternatives to glass. De Haseth tells me the company is working with Canadian groups that are interested in natural fibers such as flax as superstrong, superlight materials for industrial applications. Another interesting conversation was with Patricia A. Bordell, Pittcon's chair for shortcourses. She works with the College Board, the organization best known for the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program. Bordell goes around the country and the world to train teachers who teach AP and pre-AP chemistry. The push now by the College Board, she says, is to train chemistry teachers to apply inquiry-based learning in pre-college chemistry classrooms. I have not been to a Pittcon since three years ago, and I find it pleasing that the familiar hallmarks of Pittcon are still around, such as the trays of apples in the exhibit area and the shuttles that go back and forth the center aisle to move attendees from one end of the exhibition area to the other. I did remember to bring comfortable shoes. At the exhibition hall, the people I talked to give the impression of optimism. First up was Kristof O'Connor, product manager of Heidolph Brinkmann LLC, a manufacturer of such staple laboratory equipment as rotary evaporators and magnetic stirrers. Heidolph did "well during the recession," O'Connor tells C&EN, "exceeding sales expectations by 3.5%." Heidolph's attitude, O'Connor explains, was to work with customers within their budgets--so if a customer bought a second-hand equipment, Heidolph will help them make it work--with the hope when money becomes available and customers are ready to make new purchases, they would go back to Heidolph. Heidolph saw a significant effect of the Obama Administration's stimulus money, O'Connor says, with increased business from beneficiaries of NIH and NSF largesse, military research facilities, public universities, and companies in the alternative-fuel business. Demand for evaporators was high from companies trying to...

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Blame It On The Brain(s) Behind The ACIEs Puns
Feb11

Blame It On The Brain(s) Behind The ACIEs Puns

So. My breaking point came a few weeks ago when I read one of ACIE's genius abstract caption titles, “Just another Mannich Monday.” After laughing out loud, I proceeded to hum the cheesy tune by the Bangles, loudly, from C&EN's rooftop Berlin office, for three days. From here until perpetuity, the lyrics “I can’t be late because I guess I just won’t get paid” will remind me of Mannich-derived, stereoselective, one-pot syntheses of “spirocycles, 1-aminoindanes, and 5,6-fused azabicycles that have a quaternary carbon center.” Yeah yeah. I know I'm not the first to grin, groan, or comment about the puns, pop references, and general goofiness ACIE puts into its online abstracts. Many a blogger (Derek Lowe, Excimer, "Phil," and Chiral Jones ) have also, um, "admired" ACIE’s ability to bring Shakespeare (“Double, double, no toil and trouble”), Star Trek (“Beam me up,” twice), the X-files ("The truth is out there"), and the disembodied voice from the London Underground (“Mind the gap”) into the world of chemistry. The journal has even gotten pretty risqué of late with “Metal ménage à trois” and “Balls galore!” But Mannich Monday followed soon on the heels of the caption “The Write Stuff,” which permitted the New Kids On The Block hit--(oh yes, here's the video)--to breach my consciousness for the first time in 20 years—a particularly traumatic reminder of the boy band phenomenon. So much so, that I had to meet the evil mastermind behind it all. So I contacted the friendly folks at ACIE, asking whether I could interview (and then, um, perhaps, hound) the person responsible for all the journal’s quirky little abstract captions. You can imagine my palpable disappointment when Guy Richardson, one of ACIE’s senior associate editors broke the news that the journal’s doozies, like most of science, aren’t the work of a lone genius, but the output of many minds. According to Richardson, “The majority of these texts are indeed the handiwork of the editors (there are about a dozen Ph.D. chemists who work for ACIE, all of whom are native English speakers), but some very good texts do, in fact, come from the authors, and we are always very grateful to authors who join in the fun.” Yet someone had come up with the Mannich Monday gem, and that someone, I found, is an ACIE editor named Andrew Kelly. He’s only been on staff for a few months “but clearly has a knack for this kind of thing,” Richardson notes. So kudos to you, Dr. Kelly. And here's a challenge: Try slipping Walk Like An Egyptian into an ACIE caption, given its (remote) chemical connection. (The guy who...

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