Innovations in optical spectroscopy have helped the technology reach a point where performance previously seen only in laboratory settings can be obtained in the field with compact and easy-to-use systems. These improvements, made to detectors, software and overall design, have greatly affected instrument characteristics such as speed, miniaturization, price and reliability.
When it comes to detectors for dangerous chemicals, toxins or nefarious germs, smaller and faster is better. But size and speed must still allow for accuracy, especially when measurements by different instruments must give the same result. The recent publication of a new NIST standard provides confidence that results from handheld chemical detectors can be compared, apples-to-apples.
A team of scientists in Europe have developed a new method of rapidly identifying different molecular species under a microscope. Their technique of coherent Raman spectro-imaging with two laser frequency combs takes a big step toward the holy grail of real-time label-free biomolecular imaging.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new microfluidic device that could speed the monitoring of bacterial infections associated with cystic fibrosis and other diseases. The new microfluidic chip is etched with tiny channels, each resembling an elongated hourglass with a pinched midsection. Researchers injected bacteria through one end of each channel, and observed how cells travel from one end to the other.
Researchers have developed a system that concentrates foodborne salmonella and other pathogens faster than conventional methods by using hollow thread-like fibers that filter out the cells. The machine, called a continuous cell concentration device, could make it possible to routinely analyze food or water samples to screen for pathogens within a single work shift at food processing plants.
Crop growers can benefit from water sensors for accurate, steady and numerous moisture readings. But current sensors are large, may cost thousands of dollars and often must be read manually. Now, Cornell Univ. researchers have developed a microfluidic water sensor within a fingertip-sized silicon chip that is a hundred times more sensitive than current devices.
There is certainly no shortage of lab-on-a-chip devices, but in most cases manufacturers have not yet found a cost-effective way to mass produce them. Scientists are now developing a platform for series production of these pocket laboratories. The first major step is moving away from the usual injection molding or wet chemical processing techniques in favor of roll-to-roll processing.
Tracking blood flow in the laboratory is an important tool for studying ailments and is usually measured in the clinic using professional imaging equipment and techniques like laser speckle contrast imaging. Now, developers have built a new biological imaging system 50 times less expensive than standard equipment, and suitable for imaging applications outside of the laboratory.
At the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, experts have been conducting research of “organs” on microchips. Unlike the few other laboratories conducting these types of studies, the Army is specifically looking at potential scenarios that will affect warfighters, especially chemical agent exposure.
Using a new and super-sensitive instrument, researchers have discovered where a protein binds to plant cell walls, a process that loosens the cell walls and makes it possible for plants to grow. Finding that binding target has been a major challenge for structural biologists because there are only tiny amounts of the protein involved in cell growth and cell walls are very complex.
Cancer cells metastasize in several stages—first by invading surrounding tissue, then by infiltrating and spreading via the circulatory system. Some circulating cells work their way out of the vascular network, eventually forming a secondary tumor. Now researchers have developed a microfluidic device that mimics the flow of cancer cells through a system of blood vessels. High-resolution time-lapse imaging captures the moment of metastasis.
A team of researchers at NIST and Applied Research Associates, Inc. has demonstrated an improved microfluidic technique for recovering DNA from real-world, complex mixtures such as dirt. According to the researchers their technique delivers DNA from these crude samples with much less effort and in less time than conventional techniques and yields DNA concentrations optimal for human identification procedures.
MicroRNAs are abundant, small regulatory RNA molecules with diverse cellular functions. But their use as reliable blood-based biomarkers has been undermined by factors such as high interday variability. A new study, however, now shows that droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) technology can be used to precisely and reproducibly quantify microRNA in plasma and serum across different days.
The Department of Systems Biology at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have formed a collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific to pursue breakthroughs in the understanding of how cellular protein networks drive important diseases. Under the collaboration, Thermo Fisher will provide early access to new technology and designs, and DTU proteomics scientists will provide feedback and collaborate on new applications.
Using carbon nanotubes, a research team in Switzerland and California has developed a sensor that greatly amplifies the sensitivity of commonly used but typically weak vibrational spectroscopic methods, such as Raman spectroscopy. This type of sensor makes it possible to detect molecules present in the tiniest of concentrations.
Nanoflow liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry is used for qualitative and quantitative proteomics studies due to its high sensitivity. However, traditional nanoflow operation can be unreliable, and small imperfections when making connections between the tubing, column, high-voltage electrode and emitter can result in irreproducible results. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.’s EASY-Spray nano-electrospray ion source addresses this through the use of specifically designed devices in which the separation column, heater, high-voltage electrode and emitter are integrated in a ready-made assembly.
Ion chromatography (IC) is an analytical technique for the separation and determination of anionic and cationic analytes in various sample matrices. By introducing a high-pressure reagent-free IC system that successfully integrates conductive, electrochemical and charge detection, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has brought a new level of performance and speed to this important separations process.
Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a standard method for characterizing protein stability, but has been limited by slow scan rates of up to one hour per sample, as well as the need for large amounts of expensive sample material. A compact, flow-through sensor developed by NevadaNano may offer a solution by enabling small-volume, high-throughput protein stability screening.
Mass spectrometers offer an accurate way to profile the metabolites of biological reactions, but current technologies rely on time-consuming chromatography techniques for sample preparation, and are costly for large-scale screens. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists have removed this barrier with HT-NIMS Screening technology, which simplifies sample preparation and boosts machine throughput a hundred-fold.
When inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) was first developed, it was expected to provide highly sensitive, interference-free spectroscopic element analysis. However, chemists quickly noticed that ICP-MS suffers from numerous interferences resulting from matrix and plasma ions of matching masses. To address these sufferings, Agilent Technologies International Japan Ltd. developed the Agilent 8800 Triple Quadrupole ICP-MS (ICP-QQQ), which is the first ICP-MS with a tandem mass spectrometer, or MS/MS, configuration.
Conventional assays based on UV-Vis spectroscopy rely on absorbance by tryptophane and tyrosine residues with minor contribution from cysteine, and therefore have limited utility. However, EMD Millipore’s Direct Detect is a mid-infrared (MIR)-based spectroscopy system for protein quantitation that does not rely on amino acid composition, dye-binding properties or redox potential.
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.’s Thermo Scientific TruNarc is a handheld Raman spectrometer designed for rapid identification of suspected narcotics in the field. The TruNarc captures a Raman spectrum using its 785-nm diode laser, then compares the acquired spectrum to its library of spectra of drugs, drug precursors, cutting agents and other materials.
Often, industrial process control applications rely on analytical instrumentation for off-line analysis of products. On-line analysis is much faster, but effective tools like optical spectroscopy are difficult to integrate owing to the wide variety of illumination, interfacing and modalities for a given task. P&P Optica Inc. has developed the PPO SWIR Spectrometer to specifically address industrial process monitoring needs.
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.’s Nicolet iS50 FT-IR spectrometer automates setup for multispectral range experiments (greater than 20,000 cm-1 to 80 cm-1) and integrates techniques such as Fourier transform Raman, near-infrared (NIR) and mid/far-IR attenuated total reflectance (ATR) into a single workflow.
Princeton Instruments’ IsoPlane SCT-320 spectrograph eliminates the primary aberrations present in traditional imaging spectrographs. As a result, more photons end up in spectral peaks, increasing the effective signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Traditional Czerny-Turner imaging spectrographs are subject to imaging aberrations such as coma, astigmatism and spherical aberration.