October 2015

The summer is now over and its back to work until we get a well earned break at Christmas. We have had a few developments ( if you don’t mind the pun) at APD since I last had time to blog.

We have a new recruit. Nick Partington is joining us on Monday. Nick is a chemist and has had a lifetime in the chemistry of composite materials . Firstly at Cytec (8 years) then at Gurit / SP systems (22 years).  We have had so much work coming into the lab I felt that we needed to grow the team. So we are looking forward to Nick joining and I am sure that he will be a valuable addition to the team. To accommodate Nick we have built a new purpose built lab for him ( OK -its really a shipping container lined out so its not baking like an oven in summer and like a fridge in winter, but its surprisingly cosy)

I have been looking at some interesting technology that could enhance our GC MS capability. With GC MS (single quadropole) we usually take the spectra produced from the MS and search against our data bases to identify the unknown compounds. This usually works well as we have over 2 million spectra on file. However we are getting more and more materials that aren’t in the database. Then the only option then is to laboriously go through the fragment pattern and try to work out the structure. It can be quite fun but it is difficult and often nothing productive comes out. There is another type of MS ( QTOF) that gets round this by producing very accurate mass spectra. Our mass is normally correct to one decimal point. This is fine for fragment pattern analysis, but if you have mass down to 5 decimal points you can then derive empirical formula with a high degree of confidence for the fragments. Unfortunately a QTOF MS costs £100K+ so its out of our price league, so not an option. There is however a software package ( Massworks) that by some smart mathematical treatment of the data from the single quad MS will give mass accuracy down to 3 decimal points, not quite as good as a QTOF, but a major improvement. So it will give candidate empirical formula for all the peaks in the mass spectra and confidence limits for the empirical formula that it comes up with. I am now arranging a trial to check it out and see if it does as it says on the box. I will let you know how it goes.

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