Informing Spectroscopists for Over 40 Years

Articles and Columns

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Some compliance requirements would seem to make impossible demands on the performance specification of “fitness for purpose” for ultraviolet spectrometers; Chris and John unravel what’s going on.

Tony Davies, Peter Lampen and Robert Lancashire are worried about their metadata, or perhaps the lack of it. With the explosion of data and ways to mine and make use of it, having accurate and appropriate metadata about analytical data sets is vital if they are to be reused efficiently or at all. This is also an area that is being increasingly targeted by regulators, with the US FDA issuing guidance at the end of 2018; others will follow. You have been warned.

An interesting insight into, well, a week in the life of the author as a fourth-year PhD student. Katie is working on investigating a way of detecting liver damage using spectroscopy, which is “about as interdisciplinary as you can get”! I’m sure all readers will find it interesting and it may be helpful for those you know who may be considering a PhD.

The authors look at two important areas of recycling of waste materials: concrete and plastics. If aggregates are to be recycled from concrete, the presence of pollutants (plastics, foams, brick etc.) and the degree of removal of cement mortar from the aggregates must be assessed and monitored. NIR hyperspectral imaging with PLS does a good job of both tasks.

Depiction of underwater robot scanning a reef.

Coral reefs have been used as examples of climate change in action for decades, since the “bleaching” caused by corals stressed by heat expelling their symbiotic photosynthesising algae is such a dramatic effect. Jonathan Teague, Jack Willans, Michael Allen, Thomas Scott and John Day describe their work in developing a hyperspectral imaging system that can be deployed on a submersible remotely operated vehicle to monitor coral health through changes in their natural fluorescence

Total reflection X-ray fluorescence (TXRF) is a “Cinderella” technique: not widely known but with great potential. The author and other members of the TXRF Workgroup are making strenuous efforts both to spread the word about TXRF and to improve communication within the TXRF community. As Ramón points out, atomic absorption or plasma spectroscopies may be the “go to” techniques for many, but TXRF is worthy of consideration.

This column concludes the first series of Sampling Columns. More will appear in a sequel series, mainly aimed at presenting practical examples, case histories, demonstrations—all of which will assume that the value of only practicing representative sampling has been fully acknowledged and the relevant know how has been comprehended. Here, we end the first educational exposé of the Theory of Sampling (TOS) by focusing on the current state of awareness and with an acknowledgement of the need to involve TOS in all relevant international scientific fora, in technology, industry and in the commercial marketplace.

Hafiz Abdul Azeem recently presented some interesting results from his work on atmospheric aerosols. Following their capture, he combined the optimisation of the extraction process with chromatographic separation and mass spectroscopic detection to identify various sources of pollution through their emission marker fingerprints.1 One spin-off of this work has been the use of a specific biomarker from cellulose combustion to potentially warn of low-heat smouldering in, for example, agricultural materials in bulk storage.

A fascinating update on Brillouin spectroscopy, in particular “Brillouin microspectroscopy: in search of the mechanical properties in biological systems well below a wavenumber”. They show that the Brillouin measured elastic modulus clearly varies between regions of a biological sample, even if sometimes only by small amounts. Exactly what this is telling us and for what it is most useful or relevant is currently an area of active debate and remains to be seen.

This article provides a valuable summary of the choice of sample clean-up methods available for the quantification of small molecules in body fluids. What are the key factors? Judy outlines the principal processing methods and provides practical advice on protocol development using quantification of serum testosterone in serum samples as the model compound.

Knowledge of the origin of bones has applications in anthropology, archaeology and forensics; NIR spectroscopy, even with handheld instruments, is showing promise in being able to differentiate bones from different species.

The authors tell us about an initiative to promote ­analytical ­spectroscopy to a range of people from school children and their parents to Dutch chemists. PAT is the key.

This column completes the tale of two fictional laboratories both facing the issue: “How can the Theory of Sampling (TOS) help the commercial laboratory to improve its reputation and to increase its business”?

Peter Jenks is thinking about the new definition of the kilo, and other SI units, in “The kilo, the mole and the commutability of a result to activity”. However, he is more concerned with maintaining accurate laboratory measurements over time, which is crucial to making data comparable.

Spectroscopy is widely used in forensics, but the determination of the age of documents was one application I had not considered. With a huge variety of papers and inks available, each with their own ageing profiles, and with such ageing depending on environmental factors, the determination of the age of a document is not straightforward. However, infrared spectroscopy and chemometrics may have the answer.

Jacques Thierie’s article raises a seemingly impossible observation: that in some cases, transparency can exceed 100 %.

Tony raises the question of whether those implementing change consider sufficiently the effects on those who need to implement it or who will be affected by it. I am sure that this has wider implications than just in industry and business.

Kim Esbensen challenges commercial laboratories to add primary sampling to their range of responsibilities. Kim’s “tale” of two fictional laboratories should certainly provoke some comment, and concludes in the next issue.

Peter Jenks makes a welcome return to the Quality Matters Column and raises the radical idea of secondary producers of certified reference materials paying for the use of the primary CRMs. How may this affect the supply and price of secondary CRMs?

The story of Pierre Gy, who founded the Theory of Sampling (TOS), is a remarkable one, and his work is still the basis of representative sampling today.

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