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Developing the electrochemical sensors of your dreams

Developing the electrochemical sensors of your dreams

«Measurement is the first step that leads to control and ultimately to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.»
H. James Harrington

 

The statement above relates very well to the demand to measure more and more about our lives—one option available to achieve this improvement is through the development of electrochemical sensors. Sensor manufacturing is in high demand and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

Everything around us gives valuable information, including the chance to discover and the ability to know how we need to act. Developing sensors opens up new opportunities to develop and customize powerful and accurate solutions for specific applications in multiple fields, as well as being able to monitor different parameters outside the laboratory on the spot.

Electrochemical sensors and biosensors that are developed in small sensor strips allow for many measurement and monitoring possibilities. Sensors with new strategies have evolved by working with new materials, substrates, and formats that improve their accuracy, miniaturization, and portability in response to new analytical paradigms in various markets.

Why are electrochemical sensors needed?

Electrochemical sensors are a sensitive, fast, accurate, and cost-effective solution for point-of-care measurements. Such characteristics make these solutions suitable for integration into various monitoring or automation systems which, combined with a data communication structure, can generate considerable advances in the field of biosensing, creating new and important possibilities for the market as practical and future-proof solutions.

The latest advances in the miniaturization of electrochemical sensors is another reason for their growing use and popularity. These portable and simple formats are geared towards the end user—technical and non-technical—to obtain results in their daily work. This makes electrochemistry very attractive to anyone thinking of taking an idea or research to the next level and commercializing their findings.

This progress makes the development of electrochemical sensors one of the most active areas of analytical electrochemistry. These sensors are capable of providing information with superior features such as: real-time data generation, disposability, high accuracy, or wide-range linearity that make these small sensor strips an advanced alternative to conventional, bulky and expensive analytical instruments.

Multiple possibilities for production of electrochemical sensors

Your dream sensor is now possible thanks to expert manufacturing from Metrohm DropSens that allows customization and production according to your required quantity and specifications. Using an innovative and experienced production process, large quantities of customized sensors can be produced while maintaining high product quality and scalability stability as well as an attractive price-performance ratio.

Optimized design

Metrohm DropSens R&D experts understand the application concept in depth. The engineering and design departments assist in the development process to implement a final prototype, always finding a solution in which all specifications converge.

 

Custom-made solutions

The development of these sensors allows their miniaturization while at the same time allowing the possibility of modifications in terms of spatial distribution, shape, area, substrate, or the use of a wide range of materials, to name just a few. In addition, flexible sensors, textile sensors, biosensors or other types of solutions can be manufactured to suit the biochemical and electronic process needs of each individual application.

 

 Manufacture on demand

Take advantage of this capacity to produce custom-made electrochemical sensors on demand efficiently and quickly, regardless of the quantity ordered, meeting future needs without ever running out of supply.

 

High performance market-ready solutions

Be the first to bring a sensor to market, avoiding long processes and an abundance of partners. Count on the fast and professional manufacturing capability from a company positioned directly in the launch and production of electrochemical sensors to the market.

 

The highest quality standards

Production is carried out with the highest quality materials, printing, and finishing. In addition, the solutions are approved by quality management systems, which allows the highest levels of reliability and stability to be achieved in each product, guaranteeing its scalability.

From small-scale prototyping to large-scale sensor production, Metrohm DropSens offers support throughout the entire process: initial conceptualization, in-depth prototype design, and helping to achieve results that meet your goals.

This expert manufacturing is backed by the global support of Metrohm’s extensive worldwide network of partners. With more than 75 years of experience, Metrohm offers the highest standards of product and service quality, providing all you need for chemical analysis support.

Sensors for infinite uses

Progress and improvement cannot be adequately defined without the use of sensors. Everything can be measured (and usually quantified), which gives many opportunities to grow. State-of-the-art sensors based on the most recent scientific accomplishments excel in their customer-friendliness, allowing sensors to become part of everyday life as they are accessible to more people. Furthermore, the development of these decentralized devices can leverage R&D in many different industry sectors by addressing their specific applications and needs, giving them the option to reach the market.

The measurement of human health, pollution, information about foods and beverages, environmental analysis, water contamination, illicit drugs, or viruses, among other things, can be performed with electrochemical techniques and solutions. Sensors also play a fundamental role in industrial sectors such as agriculture and livestock farming, being able to measure an infinite number of parameters applicable to their improvement and development.

Another aspect to be taken into account regarding the development and growth of relevant sectors is the capacity of sensors for continuous electrochemical monitoring of different biomarkers. Combined with automated wireless data communication systems, this has represented a considerable advance in the field of biosensing towards new market possibilities.

Certified by ISO 13485 for the manufacture of sensors for medical devices

In the clinical setting, point-of-care (POC) testing dominates as an end-user application. The main areas of development focus especially on POCs for home monitoring of chronic diseases and POC testing of infectious pathologies, among others.

The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has posed a threat to global public health. Therefore, the development of a rapid, accurate, and easy-to-apply diagnostic system for the detection of the virus has become crucial to control the outbreak of infection and monitor the progression of the disease. 

Metrohm DropSens manufactures electrochemical sensors under ISO 13485 certification, which attests to the ability to provide production that consistently meets customer and regulatory requirements applicable to medical devices and related services.

The sectors of medical and diagnostic services are driven by a strong interest in rapid point-of-care testing and monitoring devices. In addition, the integration of biosensors into medical diagnostic equipment will offer endless opportunities for the market for prevention and control of the spread of disease.

Moreover, the proliferation of biosensors employing electrochemical sensing technology has been gaining ground due to the strong demand for rapid and non-invasive POC applications. These are market-ready sensors that can be used by anyone.

Electrochemical test strips are a suitable canvas and format for the creation of a motorized diagnostic and testing system in this area and can provide a solution to these new analytical paradigms. The development of non-invasive sensors for decentralized and continuous monitoring has received a great deal of attention from researchers in different industries for painless analysis of important health parameters.

These are extraordinary times for sensor development

We constantly look for ways to mark our progress, and having the ability to measure parameters is one way to achieve this. The development of electrochemical sensors opens up a wealth of possibilities, and thanks to the customization and mass production capabilities of Metrohm DropSens, you will be able to produce high quality electrochemical devices that are tailored to specific applications. This production process is designed to meet the long-standing market demand for end-user-oriented sensor solutions with features such as: portability, wireless functionality, and simple usability without any loss in measurement accuracy.

Electrochemical sensors, based on small sensor strips, are now simpler, smarter, more user-oriented, and cheaper than conventional electrodes, which rely on cleaning or recovery tasks and have lower reproducibility in many areas of analysis. These devices are also characterized by the ability to acquire data in real time, which, combined with portability and ubiquitous availability, makes them practical and powerful tools for measurement purposes. In addition, they can provide an alternative solution for applications where complexity is involved, as they can be developed to adapt to infinite specifications.

Electrochemical sensors guarantee optimum quality, excellent measuring accuracy, and use perfectly bonded materials, prints, and substrates. They can be developed in various formats and are reproducible on flexible or even wearable materials, always maintaining good conductivity and preserving the correct alignment of the different sensor elements in all cases.

Metrohm DropSens is able to produce these electrochemical sensors in large quantities on a customized basis while still maintaining all the benefits and features scaled up from the customer-developed application. This is possible while guaranteeing market-ready production, an efficient price-performance ratio, and no risk of stock-outs – always with continuous global and specialized support service. Contact us to make your dream sensor a reality!

Dream of your sensor

and together we will make it true

Post written by Belén Castedo González, Marketing Communication at Metrohm DropSens, Oviedo (Asturias), Spain.

Decarbonizing chemical processes with Thor

Decarbonizing chemical processes with Thor

The chemical manufacturing industry consumes approximately 10% of the energy produced worldwide and is responsible for more than 5% of global carbon emissions. Nearly all chemicals are synthesized using thermal energy generated by fossil fuel combustion, leading to the significant carbon footprint from this sector. What if there was a way to reduce the carbon footprint without requiring significant amounts of energy or high costs? That is where the 2021 Metrohm Young Chemist Award winner, Ryan Jansonius, comes in.

Ryan Jansonius is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia and a co-founder of ThorTech. He received his BSc (Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Calgary in 2016. He then went on to work at the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation, a subsidiary of Ford and Daimler, developing ion exchange membranes for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. His research in the Berlinguette group at UBC has centered around developing technologies that use inexpensive and abundant renewable electricity to drive otherwise environmentally costly chemical transformations. ThorTech is bringing to market a unique membrane reactor technology that uses water and electricity to hydrogenate molecules relevant to the biofuel, pharmaceutical, and specialty chemical industries.

The Metrohm Young Chemist Award

Metrohm values the spirit of innovation and believes in the value of novel research performed by pioneering young scientists. At Metrohm USA, the tradition of holding a yearly contest for early career researchers has gone on for nearly a decade! Every year, between 50 and 75 entries are received to try and win a grand prize of $10,000 USD.

A panel of judges from inside and outside of the company reviews the submissions and scores the applicants’ responses to the questions on the application. Finalists are then asked a series of follow up questions from the judges and asked to summarize their role in the work and its future potential. A winner is chosen, who then presents their research at PITTCON. Watch Ryan’s presentation at PITTCON 2021 below!

Past winners of the MYCA  have gone on to continue their research and broaden their horizons using the prize money to do things they otherwise would have had to pass on.

Learn more about the Metrohm Young Chemist Award here! Applicants do not have to use Metrohm instrumentation to be considered, and it plays no part in winner selection.

Decarbonizing the chemical industry

Ryan’s doctoral research at UBC focuses on finding ways to decarbonize chemical manufacturing. The production of fuels, plastics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and specialty chemicals consumes a significant amount of energy and is responsible for 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. By developing ways to produce these useful chemicals using only abundant feedstocks and renewable electricity, there is an opportunity to offset these emissions.

To decarbonize chemical processes, Ryan and his group are developing a reactor that can use renewable electricity to drive chemical reactions that would otherwise require fossil fuel inputs. The type of reaction they are targeting is called «hydrogenation», and it is used in about 25% of all chemical manufacturing across several industries. Hydrogenation is a simple chemical process where hydrogen atoms are added to an unsaturated chemical feedstock.

Normally, this requires high pressure, high temperature hydrogen gas to achieve, which is extremely dangerous to handle. Conventional technology requires capital intensive hydrogenation plants for this purpose and has not changed for nearly a century.

The reactor, called «Thor», produces hydrogen through the electrolysis of water, which then passes through a thin membrane and hydrogenates an organic feedstock. What makes Thor unique is the use of a palladium membrane as a cathode, hydrogen-selective membrane, and hydrogenation catalyst simultaneously. This architecture enables the electrolysis to proceed in aqueous electrolyte while hydrogenation is mediated in organic solvent. Both reactions proceed efficiently as a result.

Team Thor (left to right): Ryan Jansonius, Natalie LeSage, Roxanna Delima, Mia Stankovic. Not pictured: Arthur Fink, Camden Hunt, Aoxue Huang, and Aiko Kurimoto. The technological innovation is defined by the large number of female group members, as shown by their lead authorship on several peer-reviewed articles (listed at the bottom of the page).

This process circumvents the use of fossil-derived H2, and the natural gas heaters required for conventional thermochemical hydrogenation reactors used industrially today. The ultimate goal is to use Thor to produce renewable diesel, pharmaceuticals, and a host of bio-derived specialty chemicals in a way that is cleaner, safer, and more cost-effective than conventional methods.

The legend of Thor(Tech)

Where did the name «Thor» originate?

Studying the palladium-hydrogen system led the Berlinguette research group to develop the Thor reactor in 2018. The inventor of the technology, Rebecca Sherbo (currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard), came up with this idea after studying the bizarre hydrogen absorption properties of palladium. The first setup and proof of concept was a tandem hydrogenation oxidation reactor. Now, instead of the paired electrolysis method they use water hydrolysis as a hydrogen source, but kept the great name to remind them of the history.

What is ThorTech? Ryan and his research team explain their project in a nutshell:

Earlier iterations of the prototype reactor developed by Ryan’s research group at UBC.

Potential commercial impact of greener technology

Thor solves key challenges with conventional hydrogenation methods by using water as a hydrogen source. Therefore, pressurized H2 gas is no longer required, which is challenging to handle and store. The reactivity of hydrogen atoms delivered to the organic feedstock in the reactor is on the order of hundreds of atmospheres. Hydrogen sourced from water can therefore be used to hydrogenate organic molecules without the use of dangerous reagents or high temperatures. Using electricity as the only energy input also enables the device to be carbon neutral if is coupled to a renewable electricity source.

A close-up view of the Thor benchtop reactor.
An expanded view of the internal parts in the flow cell.

Why choose Metrohm?

So, why choose Metrohm over other providers? I asked Ryan about his experiences with our line of potentiostats for his doctoral research in the Berlinguette lab group at UBC.

«All of the potentiostats that we use are Metrohm potentiostats in the lab. The only piece of fancy equipment or scientific equipment we need to run it [Thor] is a potentiostat. We have one big multichannel potentiostat with five or six individual channels in it, and we run all of our reactions off of that.»

Ryan Jansonius

MYCA 2021 Winner and Ph.D. Candidate, University of British Columbia

Learn more about Metrohm’s electrochemical instruments on our website!

A Metrohm Autolab Multichannel instrument. Each channel is a separate potentiostat/galvanostat module, allowing you to perform up to twelve measurements on just as many individual electrochemical cells.

«The thing that sets them apart from other potentiostats I’ve used is that the user interface is really good. The Metrohm software has a lot of default procedures and makes making custom procedures almost brainless, which is great.

You want to use your brain for the hard stuff, not the “set up the instrument” stuff.»

Ryan Jansonius

MYCA 2021 Winner and Ph.D. Candidate, University of British Columbia

We wholeheartedly agree! For more information about potentiostats from Metrohm Autolab, visit the website.

The next steps

The Thor team is currently working to develop membranes that use less palladium, designing flow cells to increase reaction rates and efficiency, and screening catalysts that enable a broader scope of feedstocks to be hydrogenated in Thor.

Dr. Aiko Kurimoto, a postdoctoral fellow on the Thor team has shown that depositing thin layers of different catalysts on the palladium cathode leads to substantially higher reactivities. This work was published in Angewandte Chemie (2021).

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced research activities across the globe, and it is no different for our Metrohm Young Chemist Award winner. After spending nearly six months outside of the lab, social distancing measures made it difficult for Ryan to finish up his doctoral work. If an experiment failed, an entire week of work could be lost because of the need to stagger attendance. Ultimately, the team moved to a larger unoccupied space close by in order to continue their work.

How will the MYCA prize money be used?

After completing his doctorate, Ryan had planned to put all efforts into his start-up company ThorTech based on the research he contributed to. However, the transition from graduate researcher to start-up co-founder is quite an expensive one.

«It [the prize] couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m just now starting to appreciate how expensive transitioning [to industry] is.»

Ryan Jansonius

MYCA 2021 Winner and Ph.D. Candidate, University of British Columbia

He wants to take some time off to work on the company before investment capital comes in, and the prize money will be instrumental to help him do this. Additionally, a bit of rest and recharge is needed after finishing his degree!

Ryan defends his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia in May 2021, and we wish him the very best of luck. To learn more about the research of Ryan and his team, selected peer-reviewed literature is provided below.

Selected literature for further reading:

  • Sherbo, R.S.; Delima, R.S.; Chiykowski, V.A.; et al. Complete electron economy by pairing electrolysis with hydrogenation. Nat. Catal. 2018, 1, 501–507. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-018-0083-8

    This is the first article published on the Thor reactor.

  • Sherbo, R.S.; Kurimoto, A.; Brown, C.M.; et al. Efficient Electrocatalytic Hydrogenation with a Palladium Membrane Reactor. JACS 2019, 141, 7815–782. https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.9b01442

    Thor enables ~65% more energy efficient hydrogenation reactions than can be achieved using normal electrochemical hydrogenation methods.

  • Delima, R.S.; Sherbo, R.S.; Dvorak, D.J.; et al. Supported palladium membrane reactor architecture for electrocatalytic hydrogenation. J. Mater. Chem. A 2019, 7, 26586–26595. https://doi.org/10.1039/c9ta07957b

    This article describes a design for palladium membranes that uses 25x less palladium than conventional Pd foils.

  • Jansonius, R.P.; Kurimoto, A.; Marelli, A.M.; et al. Hydrogenation without H2 Using a Palladium Membrane Flow Cell. Cell Reports Physical Science, 2020, 1, 100105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrp.2020.100105

    This article shows a designed and validated scalable flow cell architecture, enabling 15x faster, and 2x more efficient hydrogenation reactions.

  • Huang, A.; Cao, Y.; Delima, R.S.; et al. Electrolysis Can Be Used to Resolve Hydrogenation Pathways at Palladium Surfaces in a Membrane Reactor. JACS Au 2021, 1, 336-343. https://doi.org/10.1021/jacsau.0c00051

    Thor can also be used to resolve complex reaction mechanisms by depositing nanoparticles on the surface of the membrane.

Post written by Dr. Alyson Lanciki, Scientific Editor at Metrohm International Headquarters, Herisau, Switzerland.

Special thanks go to Ryan Jansonius for taking the time before his doctoral defense to contribute to this article.

Fire and ice: discovering volcanic eruptions with ion chromatography

Fire and ice: discovering volcanic eruptions with ion chromatography

Some answers lie deep beneath the ice, waiting to be discovered.

Performing environmental chemistry research has taken me to the most remote places on Earth. In my doctoral studies, I was fortunate enough to handle samples from the South Pole and to perform my own research in Greenland, and later in Antarctica for my post-doc. What were we searching for, that took us to the middle of nowhere?

Volcanic eruptions are pretty unpredictable. Among the more active and aesthetic volcanoes with lava flows are Mount Etna in Catania (Italy), Kilauea on the large island of Hawaii (USA), and more recently Mount Fagradalsfjall in Iceland. When smaller events occur, people travel from all over to view this natural wonder. However, not all eruptions are equal…

Depending on a number of factors including the height of the eruption plume and the composition of the emissions, volcanic events can have quite a significant effect on the global climate. The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) is a logarithmic scale used to measure the explosivity value of volcanic eruptions and categorize them from 0 (effusive) to 8 (mega-colossal). The largest of these events in the past century was the 1991 Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines (VEI 6, colossal). The cloud column reached high into the stratosphere, ejecting huge amounts of aerosols and gases, including sulfur dioxide (SO2) that scatter and absorb sunlight. This led to a measured global cooling effect for nearly two years after the eruption ended. Images of cloudless days at noon during this time showed a flat white hazy sky, indicative of the scattering effect of high-altitude sulfur aerosols.

Other large volcanic eruptions have led to periods of famine as well as enlightenment. It is said that the fantastic skies resulting from Krakatoa in 1883 (VEI 6, colossal) inspired Edvard Munch to paint his well-known masterpiece The Scream. If you’re familiar with Frankenstein, you can thank Mary Shelley for writing it during the wintry «year without a summer» in 1816, a result of the eruption of Mount Tambora (VEI 7, super-colossal).

Solving a mystery at the ends of the Earth

This cold period has been studied at length by several research groups and methodologies. In fact, the preceding decade had been found to be abnormally cool, however no record of another volcanic eruption was immediately apparent. Ultimately, it was pristine ice that held the clue that solved this mystery, and many others.

The sulfur dioxide emitted during volcanic eruptions is oxidized to sulfuric acid aerosols in the atmosphere, and depending on the height they reach, they can reside for days or even up to years. The deposition of volcanic sulfate on the polar ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland preserves a record of eruptions via the continuous accumulation of snow in these areas. Therefore, records of volcanic activity can be found in polar ice cores by measuring the amount of sulfate. A fantastic way to determine sulfate, along with other a suite of major anions and cations in aqueous samples even at trace levels is with ion chromatography (IC).

The author holding a 1-meter long ice core drilled in Summit Camp, Greenland (left) and Dome Concordia, Antarctica (right).

Of course, gases can also be measured as they are trapped in the spaces between snowflakes, which are then compacted into firn and subsequently locked into the ice sheet. However, the time resolution for this is not fine enough for such volcanic measurements, nor is the volume of gas large enough to make an accurate estimate of the volcanic origin.

Gases trapped in the ice can be measured with special instrumentation and give insight into the prehistoric atmosphere.

Drilling ice cores for ion analysis is not a simple business. The logistics are staggering – getting both the field equipment and properly trained personnel to the middle of the ice sheet takes a sophisticated transportation network and cannot follow a strict schedule because Mother Nature plays by her own rules.

A complete medical checkup is necessary from top to bottom, as medical facilities can be rudimentary at best. This includes bloodwork, heart monitoring, full dental x-rays, and more (depending on your age and gender). It can take several days to evacuate a hurt or sick person to a proper hospital and therefore being in good health with an up-to-date medical record is part of being prepared for this type of remote work.

Equipment must be shipped to the site weeks or months in advance, often left at the mercy of the elements before being assembled again. Hopefully, everything works. If not, you must be very resourceful because there are no regular shipments and replacement parts are difficult to come by.

Boarding passes given to polar support staff leaving from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station (USA) in Antarctica.

Ice cores obtained from polar areas and other remote places have been used for decades to analyze and reconstruct past events. Many considerations must be made regarding where to drill, how deep to go, and so on. The geographic location is of critical importance for several reasons including avoiding contamination from anthropogenic emissions, but also for its annual snowfall accumulation rate, proximity to volcanoes and even to other living beings (like penguin colonies, in the Antarctic).

Remote drill site based outside and upwind of Summit Camp, Greenland.

A fine resolution record of sulfate from ice cores drilled in Greenland and Antarctica has led to the discovery of previously unknown volcanic events. Ion chromatography with a dual channel system allows the simultaneous measurement of cations and anions from the same sample. When dealing with such critical samples and small volumes, this is a huge benefit for complete record keeping purposes. With the addition of automatic sample preparation like Metrohm Inline Ultrafiltration or Inline Dilution, human error is eliminated with a robust, time-saving analysis method.

Over the past two decades, the time resolution for data from ice core analysis has increased significantly. Conductivity used to be the measurement of choice to determine large volcanic events in ice cores, as it is difficult to see (unaided) the deposits of tephra from many eruptions, contrary to what you may think. The conductivity of sulfuric acid is higher than that of water, but conductivity is a sum parameter and does not disclose exactly what components are in the sample.

Tephra layers deposited by a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Even when IC began to build traction in this space, the sample sizes did not allow researchers to determine monthly variations, but yearly approximations. This meant that any smaller sulfate peaks could have been overlooked. Researchers have tried to overcome this by matching records from ice cores around the globe to estimate the size, origin, and climatic impact of past volcanoes. Unfortunately, when the drill site is located close to active volcanism (as is the case with Greenland, downwind from Iceland), even smaller eruptions can seem to have an oversized effect.

Drilling into the ice always requires keeping track of the top and bottom ends of each meter!

The enhanced time resolution now possible with more sophisticated sample preparation (i.e. continuous flow setups for sample melting without contamination) for small volume IC injection allows for more accurate dating of volcanic eruptions without other apparent historical records.

Selected data from a drilled ice core, measured by IC. Trace analysis is necessary due to the low concentrations of ionic species deposited in remote locations. Annual layer counting was possible here, as shown with the yearly variations in several measured analytes. Grey bars represent the summer season.

Depending on the annual snowfall at the drill site and the depth of the core drilled, it can be possible to determine which month in a given year the deposition of sulfate from a volcanic eruption occurred.

This information, combined with other data (e.g., deposition length) helps pinpoint the circulation of the eruption plume and estimate the global impact. Aside from this, other data can be gained by measuring the isotopic composition of the deposited sulfate to determine the height of the eruption cloud (a more accurate method to confirm stratospheric eruptions), but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Storing hundreds of meters of ice cores during a summer research campaign in Antarctica.
Summers at Dome Concordia are not balmy, as shown in the temperature data (-54.3 °C wind chill!).

Using ion chromatography, it is possible even in the field to accurately determine the depth where specific volcanic events of interest lie in the ice. Then several ice cores can be drilled in the same location to procure a larger volume of ice to perform more detailed analyses.

My ice core research laboratory in Antarctica. Left: Metrohm IC working around the clock in the warm lab. Right: the ice core sample processing area in the cold lab (kept at -20 °C).

To solve this particular mystery, it was the combination of matching the same sulfate peak measured via IC in ice cores from both polar regions along with confirming the stratospheric nature of the eruption that led to the discovery of a previously unrecorded volcanic event in the tropics around the year 1809 C.E.

Transporting insulated ice cores back home for further research takes the cooperation of scientists, camp support staff, and the government. If flying, the entire flight must be kept cold to ensure the integrity of the ice. Any unlucky person catching a ride on a cold-deck flight must bundle up!

Cold period was extended by a second volcanic eruption

In fact, the stratospheric Tambora eruption in 1815 was already preceded by another huge climate-impacting event in the tropics just a few years before. This combination led to one of the coldest periods in the past 500 years. The data obtained by IC measurements of ice cores was instrumental in this discovery, and many more in the past few years.

Leaving the Antarctic continent can happen in a number of ways: by boat, military aircraft, or a plane. I was lucky enough to catch a first class ride on a government plane, with the added bonus of having a very interesting flight plan on screen.

High impact data

Other new volcanic eruptions have been discovered in the ice core record as the analytical technology improves. Their eruption dates can also be more accurately determined, helping to explain which of them had a climatic impact or not. This information helps to improve the accuracy of climate models, as the high altitude sulfate aerosols resulting from large eruptions reflect the sun and cause long periods of global cooling. It is for this reason that some groups have proposed a form of geoengineering where controlled amounts of sulfur gases are injected high into the atmosphere to mimic the effects of a stratospheric eruption.

In conclusion

I hope that this brief summary of a niche of environmental research with ion chromatography has piqued your interest! Maybe the inspiration of knowing that such roles exist will push other young scientists to pursue a similar career path. Chemistry education does not always have to happen indoors!

Robust ion chromatography solutions

Metrohm has what you need!

Post written by Dr. Alyson Lanciki, Scientific Editor at Metrohm International Headquarters, Herisau, Switzerland.

Unmatched flexibility in online ion analysis: The 2060 IC Process Analyzer

Unmatched flexibility in online ion analysis: The 2060 IC Process Analyzer

When discussing chemical analysis, the first thing that comes to mind is a chemist working in the laboratory analyzing a sample.

However, in the industrial process world chemical analysis is a much more complicated affair. In the metalworking industry for example, corrosion is a complex problem. The conventional approach (offline analysis systems) is costly, and a more proactive approach is needed for prevention, identification, and manufacturing of high quality metalworking products. Therefore, a more comprehensive sample monitoring and analysis approach is necessary in order to comply with such requirements.

While offline analysis systems depend upon an analyst to collect and process samples, an online analysis system allows for continuous monitoring of multiple parameters in real time without being dependent on an analyst.

Need to refresh your knowledge about the differences between online, inline, and atline analysis? Read our blog post: «We are pioneers: Metrohm Process Analytics».

The implementation of Process Analytical Technologies (PAT) provides a detailed representation in real time of the actual conditions within a process. As a complete solution provider, Metrohm Process Analytics offers the best solutions for online chemical analysis. We seek to optimize process analysis by developing flexible, modular process analyzers that allow multiple analyses of different analytes from a representative sample taken directly at the process site.

Want to learn more about PAT? Check out our article series here: «To automate or not to automate? Advantages of PAT – Part 1».

2060 IC Process Analyzer

With more than 40 years of experience with online process analysis, Metrohm Process Analytics has always been committed to innovation. In 2001, the first modular IC system was developed at Metrohm and it was a success. In the past several years Metrohm Process Analytics focused on implementing more modular flexibility in their products, which resulted in the introduction of the next generation of Process Ion Chromatographs: the 2060 IC Process Analyzer (Figure 1) in 2019. It is built using two 930 Compact IC Flex systems and is in full synergy with the Metrohm process analyzer portfolio (such as the 2060 Process Analyzer).

Figure 1. The 2060 IC Process Analyzer from Metrohm Process Analytics. Pictured here is the touchscreen human interface, the analytical wet part (featuring additional sample preparation modules – top inlay, and the integrated IC – bottom inlay), and a reagent cabinet.

For more background behind the development of IC solutions for the process world, check out our previous blog posts featuring the past of the 2060 IC Process Analyzer:

Using the 2060 platform, modularity is taken to the next step. Configurations of up to four wet part cabinets allow numerous combinations of multiple analysis modules for multiparameter measurements on multiple process streams, making this analyzer unequal to any other on the market.

This modular architecture gives the additional possibility to place separate cabinets in different locations around a production site for a wide angle view of the process. For example, the 2060 IC Process Analyzer can be set up at different locations to prevent corrosion on the water steam cycles in fossil and nuclear power plants.

The 2060 IC Process Analyzer is managed using flexible software enabling straightforward efficient control and programming options. With multiple types of detectors available from Metrohm, high precision analysis of a wide spectrum of analytes is possible in parallel.

The inclusion of an optional (pressureless) ultrapure water system for autonomous operation and reliable trace analysis also benefits users by providing continuous eluent production possibilities for unattended operation (Figure 2).

Finally, the well-known Metrohm Inline Sample Preparation (MISP) techniques are an added bonus for process engineers for repeatable, fully automated preparation of challenging sample matrices.

Figure 2. Continuous eluent production integrated in the 2060 IC Process Analyzer.

Top applications

The collection of samples and process data, including corrosion prevention and control indicators, is critical for efficient plant management in many industries. In order to prevent unscheduled plant shutdowns, accidents, and damage to company assets, process engineers rely on their colleagues in the lab to pinpoint corrosion problems. One of the most effective ways to bridge laboratory analyses to the process environment is to employ real-time analysis monitoring.

Figure 3. Product and process optimization differences between offline, atline, online, and inline analysis.

Optimal online corrosion management

Be it quantifying the harmful corrosive ions (e.g., chlorides, sulfates, or organic acids), measuring corrosion inhibitors (e.g., ammonia, amines, and film-forming amines), or detecting corrosion products, the 2060 IC Process Analyzer is the ideal solution for 24/7 unattended analysis.

In a nuclear power plant, this analyzer can measure a number of analytes including inorganic anions, organic cations, and aliphatic amines to ensure a thorough understanding of corrosive indications without needing multiple instruments.

Figure 4. Water sample from the primary circuit of a pressurized water reactor containing 2 g/L H3BO3 and 3.3 mg/L LiOH spiked with 2 μg/L anions (preconcentration volume: 2000 μL).
Figure 5. Simulated sample from the primary circuit of a pressurized water reactor containing 2 g/L H3BO3 and 3.3 mg/L LiOH spiked with 2 μg/L nickel, zinc, calcium, and magnesium (preconcentration volume: 1000 μL).

Providing quick, reliable results, this system gives valuable insight into the status of corrosion processes within a plant by continuous comparison of results with control values. By correlating the results with specific events, effective corrective action can quickly be undertaken to prevent or minimize plant downtime.

For more information about the determination of anions and cations in the primary circuit of nuclear power plants with the 2060 IC Process Analyzer, download our free Application Notes below.

Online drinking water analysis

In drinking water plants and beverage bottling companies, determination of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) like bromate is crucial due to their carcinogenic properties. The carcinogen bromate (BrO3) has a recommended concentration limit of 10 μg/L of in drinking water set by the World Health Organization.

Nowadays, ion chromatography has been proven to be the best routine analysis method for water analysis, due to its possibility of automated sample preparation, various separation mechanisms, and different types of detectors. Some of the analytical standards that support this include: EPA 300.1EPA 321.8, ASTM D6581, ISO 11206, and ISO 15061.

The 2060 IC Process Analyzer can monitor trace levels of bromate in drinking water online, meaning higher throughput, less time spent performing manual laboratory tests, and better quality drinking water.

Figure 6. Drinking water sample, spiked with 10 μg/L each of chlorite, bromate, chlorate, 40 μg/L each of nitrate, bromide, 100 μg/L phosphate, and 500 μg/L dichloroacetate.
Figure 7. Analysis of a mineral water sample spiked with 0.5 μg/L bromate.

To learn more about the online analysis of bromate in drinking water with the 2060 IC Process Analyzer, download our free Application Note.

Monitoring aerosols and gases in air

Approximately 92% of the world population lives in places where the World Health Organization air quality guideline levels are not met. Air pollution can exacerbate preexisting health conditions and shorten lifespans. It has even been suggested as a link to infertility causes. Hence, understanding the impact of air pollution and air constituents on the environment and our wellbeing is of great significance.

Air pollution is caused not only by gaseous compounds, but also by aerosols and particulate matter (PM). These extremely fine particles enter and damage the lungs; from them, ultrafine particles can spread across the body through the blood cells and cause symptoms of inflammation. While these risks are being debated and researched actively around the world, it is still not known which compounds actually cause harm.

As a result, there is a great need for more specific data on long-term measurements. Fast analytical methods and real-time measurements of concentrations of chemical compounds in ambient air are important and should make it possible to better understand the circumstances and effects.

For optimal air quality monitoring, the gas and aerosol composition of the surrounding air has to be analyzed practically simultaneously as well as continuously, which is possible via inline analysis with ion chromatography.

Metrohm Process Analytics offers the 2060 MARGA (Monitor for AeRosols and Gases in ambient Air) which thanks to its dual-channel ion chromatograph, can automatically analyze the ions from the collected gas and aerosol samples.

If you want to learn more background behind the development of the 2060 MARGA, check out our previous blog post: History of Metrohm IC – Part 5.

For a full list of free downloadable 2060 IC applications, visit our website and check out the Metrohm Application Finder!

Free Application Notes

For the 2060 IC Process Analyzer

Post written by Andrea Ferreira, Technical Writer at Metrohm Applikon, Schiedam, The Netherlands.

History of Metrohm IC – Part 5

History of Metrohm IC – Part 5

In the fifth part in our ongoing series about the history of ion chromatography development at Metrohm, we now focus on automated air quality monitoring with the 2060 MARGA instrument.

Did you miss the other parts in this series? Find them here!

The importance of clean air cannot be understated. Air pollution is one of the major environmental risks to human health; it can cause strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases. Additionally, the contribution of such pollution to climate change is of significant scientific interest.

Monitoring air quality is of increasing concern, and thankfully more and more companies are taking responsibility for their input and looking for ways to measure and mitigate their environmental contribution.

What is MARGA?

MARGA (Monitor for AeRosols and Gases in ambient Air) was developed in the 1990s by Metrohm Process Analytics in cooperation with the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The original MARGA 1S air monitoring system, developed in the 1990s by Metrohm Process Analytics.

This instrument application offered a new approach in which gases and aerosols sampled from the same air mass are separated from each other by selectively dissolving them in water. The resulting solutions (available every hour) are then analyzed using ion chromatography with conductivity detection. Separating the two fractions from each other allows for the detection of important precursor gases and ionic species found in the aerosols.

Collection of water-soluble ions and analysis by ion chromatography:
  • Gases: HCl, HNO3, HNO2, SO2, NH3
  • Aerosols: Cl, NO3, SO42-, NH4+, Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, *F

*also possible with the 2060 MARGA (Figure 2)

This new analyzer application was a huge success at that time. However, in the meantime Metrohm Process Analytics was busy implementing more modular flexibility to their process analyzers. That’s why in 2018, based on the all-new 2060 online analysis platform from Metrohm Process Analytics, the 2060 MARGA (Figure 2) was introduced.

To learn more about how MARGA is used in real life situations, download our free technical notes on the Metrohm website.

Figure 2. The Metrohm Process Analytics solution to unattended, automated air quality analysis: the 2060 MARGA M.

Featuring state of the art 2060 software to automate analysis 24/7, brand new hardware adaptable for modular flexibility, and the dependable and well-known MagIC Net software, the 2060 MARGA is the right solution to gain insight of the effects of particulate matter on health and the environment. This instrument is available in two versions:

2060 MARGA M (Monitoring)

The 2060 MARGA M (Figure 2) is ideal for unattended routine monitoring at a permanent site.

Everything is packed into a single instrument, with separate subcabinets for the sample collection wet part, ion analysis cabinet (with two IC channels and column oven for anion and cation determinations), plus reagent containers with level sensors.

2060 MARGA R (Research)

A flexible version, ideal for research applications, features the 2060 user interface and sample collection wet part.

Sample analysis is carried out on a stand-alone Metrohm 940 Professional IC Vario TWO/SeS/PP, including sequential suppression for the anion analysis channel. Installed on-site for a limited time campaign, the 2060 MARGA R works unattended in the same way as the 2060 MARGA M. When not required for field use, the 940 Ion Chromatograph can be put to work in the laboratory, using an external PC and MagIC Net, to run any of the multitude of applications available from Metrohm.

Figure 3. The 2060 MARGA offers hourly data and easy to read trend charts for a full overview of gas and aerosol analysis.

The 2060 MARGA is designed for monitoring in remote locations but it’s never far from home. By using a direct internet connection, the 2060 MARGA performance can be checked remotely, adjustments can be made, and results can be evaluated at any time.

Monitoring air quality around the world

MARGA systems from Metrohm have been used by many official agencies and research organizations globally to monitor air quality in a completely autonomous way.

Figure 4. World map showing the locations of installed MARGA instruments from Metrohm Process Analytics.
Scotland

The MARGA participated in a program focusing on measurement and evaluation of the long-range, transboundary transmission of air-polluting substances in Europe (European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme, «EMEP»). 

This research was performed in Auchencorth Moss, approximately 20 kilometers south of Edinburgh in Scotland, with the objective of analyzing to what degree crops and natural ecosystems, as well as the rural population, are exposed to airborne pollutants.

Learn more about this application here.

Netherlands

Fireworks are full of water-soluble ions and trace metals. The different colors are produced through the combustion of these chemical compounds. After combustion, the air is full of toxic gases and particles which can linger for a significant time, depending on weather patterns.

The 2060 MARGA can determine detailed gas and aerosol concentrations on an hourly basis completely autonomously, offering valuable scientific information about the effect of fireworks on local air quality (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Air pollution due to New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations in the Netherlands: aerosol concentrations of selected compounds.

For more information about this application, download our free technical note here.

If you would like to read more scientific literature featuring the MARGA, please download our free overview: Air monitoring with ion chromatography: An overview of the literature references.

Download our free monograph:

Practical Ion Chromatography – An Introduction

Post written by Andrea Ferreira (Technical Writer at Metrohm Applikon, Schiedam, The Netherlands) and Dr. Alyson Lanciki (Scientific Editor at Metrohm International Headquarters).

Introduction to Analytical Instrument Qualification – Part 2

Introduction to Analytical Instrument Qualification – Part 2

Welcome back to our blog, and happy 2021! We hope that you and your families had a safe and restful holiday season. To start the year, we will conclude our introduction to Analytical Instrument Qualification. 

Metrohm’s approach to Analytical Instrument Qualification (AIQ)

Metrohm’s answer to Analytical Instrument Qualification is bundled in our Metrohm Compliance Services. The most thorough level of documentation offered for AIQ is the IQ/OQ.

Metrohm IQ/OQ documentation provides you with the required documentation in strict accordance to the major regulations from the USP, FDA, GAMP, and PIC/S, allowing you to document the suitability of your Metrohm instruments for your lab’s specific intended use.

With our test procedures (described later in more detail), we can prove that the hardware and software components function correctly, both individually and as part of the system as a whole. With Metrohm’s IQ/OQ, you are supported in the best possible way to integrate our systems into your current processes.

Our high quality documentation will have you «audit ready» all the time.

The flexibility of a modular document structure

Depending on the environment you work in and your specific demands, Metrohm can offer a tailored qualification approach thanks to documentation modularity. If you need a lower level of qualification, only the required modules can be executed. Our documentation consists of different modules, each of which documents the identity of the Metrohm representative along with the qualification reviewer, combined with the details of each instrument, software, and document involved in the qualification.  Thanks to this, each module is independent, which guarantees both full traceability and reliability for your system setup.

Cost-effective qualification from Metrohm

Metrohm supports you by implementing a cost-effective qualification process, depending upon your requirements and the modules needed. This means that a qualification is not about performing unnecessary actions, qualification is about completing the required work.

The risk assessment analysis defines the level of qualification needed and based on it, we focus on testing only what needs to be tested. In case you relocate your device to another lab, which qualification steps (DQ, IQ, OQ, PQ) are really needed in order to fulfill your requirements? Contact your local Metrohm expert for advice on this matter.

A complete Metrohm IQ/OQ qualification includes…

Metrohm IQ/OQ documentation is based on the following documentation tree, beginning with the first module, the Master Document (MD), followed by the Installation Qualification (IQ) and eventually the Operational Qualification (OQ). The OQ is then divided again into individual component tests (Hardware and Software) and a holistic test to validate your complete system.

Master Document (MD)

Each qualification starts with the Master Document (MD) – the central organizing document for the AIQ procedures. It not only describes the process of installing and qualifying the instruments, but also the competence and education level of the qualifying engineer. The MD identifies all other components to be added to the qualification, resulting in a flexible framework on which to build up a set of documentation.

Installation Qualification (IQ)

Once the content of the documentation is defined in the MD, the Installation Qualification (IQ) follows. This set of documentation is designed to ensure that the instrument, software, and any accessories have been all delivered and installed correctly. The IQ protocol additionally specifies that the workplace is suitable for the analytical system as stipulated by Metrohm.

Operational Qualification (OQ)

After a correct installation comes the main part of the qualification: the Operational Qualification (OQ). In the first part of the OQ, the functionality of the single hardware components is tested and evaluated according to a set of procedures. This is to ensure that the instrument is working perfectly as designed, and is safe to use. Rest assured that you can rely on the expertise of our Metrohm certified engineers to conduct these comprehensive tests on your instruments using the necessary calibrated and certified tools.

The second part of the OQ consists of a set of Software Tests to prove that the installed Metrohm software functions correctly and reliably on the computer it was installed on. The importance of maintaining software in a validated state is also related to the data integrity of your laboratory. Therefore these software tests can be repeated periodically or after major changes. In particular, these functionality tests cover verifications on user management, database functionalities, backups, audit trail review, security policy, electronic signatures, and so on.

At Metrohm, we constantly work to improve our procedures and use state of the art tools and technologies.  For this reason, we have implemented a completely automated test procedure for validating the software of our new OMNIS platform. This ensures full integrity in the execution and delivers consistent results with a faster and completely error-free test execution. This innovative and automated software validation eliminates manual activities that are labor intensive and time consuming. This therefore expedites testing and removes the inefficiencies that plague the paper-based software validation.

Your benefit is clear: save valuable time and reduce unnecessary laboratory start-up activities during qualification. That’s time you can spend on other work in your lab!

Holistic Test (Performance Verification, PV)

Once each individual component has been separately tested, the performance of the system as a whole is proven by means of a holistic test (OQ-PV).

This includes a series of «wet-chemical» tests, performed using certified reference materials, to prove the system is capable of generating quality data, i.e. results that are accurate, precise, and above all fit for purpose. Based on detailed, predefined instructions (SOPs), a series of standard measurements are performed, statistically evaluated, and compared to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Differences between Performance Verification (PV) and Performance Qualification (PQ)

The Performance Verification (PV) is a set of tests offered by Metrohm in order to verify the fitness for purpose of the instrument. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the PV includes standardized test procedures to ensure the system operates as designed by the manufacturer in the selected environment.

On the other hand, the Performance Qualification (PQ) is a very customer specific qualification phase (see the «4 Q’s» Qualification Phases found in Part 1). PQ verifies the fitness for purpose of the instrument under actual condition of use, proving its continued suitability. Therefore, PQ tests are defined depending on your specific analysis and acceptance criteria.

Now my questions to you—is your analytical instrument qualified for its intended use? Is your lab in compliance with the latest regulations for equipment qualification and validation? Get expert advice directly from your local Metrohm agency and request your quote for Metrohm qualification services today!

Check out our online material:

Metrohm Quality Service

Post written by Lara Casadio, Jr. Product Manager Service at Metrohm International Headquarters, Herisau, Switzerland.