Well, the first day of my first ever visit to Pittcon 2011 has been completed! The event has lived up to its reputation of being a global meeting point for the analytical instrumentation industry. If there is a measurement you need to carry out, then there is probably a technology on offer within the Pittcon exhibition to achieve it. Just make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes if you’re planning on visiting Pittcon to check out what is on offer. Seeing every booth will require a lot of walking!

Faster PhDs?

As I walked around the exhibition, one thing that struck me was the advances which have occurred in analytical capabilities since I did my own PhD research almost 20 years ago. Now, rather than having to build my own kit to carry out the measurements I required to understand more about the wonderful world of colloid science, there are a number of companies offering systems which would have allowed me to complete my PhD in around 6 months rather than 3 years! Good to know that science is advancing so quickly.

Even more amazing is what is now possible in terms of imaging the processes which occur at surfaces, using techniques such as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). One product specialist for a company supplying AFM systems showed me how they can now obtain images that allow them to understand the conformation taken up by surfactants and polymers absorbed at interfaces. In addition, they are able to observe the changes in surfactant behaviour which occur when using mixed surfactant systems. Interesting to see how direct measurements like these are now starting to directly verify what previously could only be modelled indirectly, for instance through the measurement of interfacial tensions.

What is it that am I measuring?

Beyond dreaming about my PhD, another key theme which I noticed at this year’s Pittcon is the requirement for fast, precise measurements of the identity of materials. There are now a growing number of companies offering mobile devices and in-process monitors for detecting the chemical identity of products using techniques such as Raman spectroscopy. Although chromatographic techniques remain the bench mark for the assessment of chemical purity, as evidenced by the large number of companies offering analytical systems and services associated with HPLC for example, it is clear that techniques such as Raman are fulfilling a need for the more rapid screening of materials.

And this is something which Malvern have recognised too! At Pittcon we are showing the Morphology G3-ID system for the first time. This combines the power of particle size and shape measurement, using image analysis, with the capabilities of Raman spectroscopy. Their was a lot of interest in the system during day one, with visitor’s to Malvern’s booth commenting on the possibilities offered by building a correlation between particle form and composition. If you are visiting Pittcon, why not come along to Booth 1127 today, to see the system in action!