Another busy month, lots of different jobs going through the lab, ranging from routine testing of panels for customers to more exciting forensic analysis of composite samples.
One thing that has become apparent is that we need to improve our microscopy. When we started APD we bought a cheap Chinese microscope and not surprisingly it is rubbish. So we have bitten the bullet and ordered a high quality research grade microscope and imaging software package from Nikon. I think that this will be a great asset to the lab. It will work in tandem with our Thermo Nicolet FTIR microscope which is terrific at chemical mapping of the surface of samples but is not really an optical microscope. I am sure that when we get the new Nikon up and running we will learn even more about the composite samples that come into the lab.
We got our autosampler last week for the GC-MS. This will take 18 samples and run them automatically. You just have to programme it and off it goes. The benefits are that you can easily do lots of samples and even more runs per sample and all this overnight or over the weekend. I attached it to the GC and set it off for a trial run. Off it went flushing its syringe with clean solvent. Then flushing the sample through to ensure that the sample had no residual solvent. Then it goes to do the injection. Well one of the benefits of the autosampler is that it can inject really fast- much faster than you can do manually. This is really good for the analysis. But this is where things start to go wrong. As the syringe comes out of the vial it doesn’t come out cleanly and lifts the vial up and out of the tray. So now the vial is hanging off the end of the syringe needle and the machine goes for a super-fast injection into the GC. As you can imagine the result was not good. The vial got smashed into the injection port and the syringe got bent double. I have now got 6 more syringes and the technical guys at Agilent assure me that it shouldn’t happen again, but they dont seem to know why it did it anyway- I haven’t worked myself up yet for another trial, it was quite upsetting and the syringes are not cheap!