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First Impressions At Pittcon – Final Edition

I don’t have the time to fully understand zeta potential, so of course I go to Wikipedia, according to which: “Zeta potential is an abbreviation for electrokinetic potential in colloidal systems. In the colloidal chemistry literature, it is usually denoted using the Greek letter zeta, hence ζ-potential

. From a theoretical viewpoint, zeta potential is electric potential in the interfacial double layer (DL) at the location of the slipping plane versus a point in the bulk fluid away from the interface. In other words, zeta potential is the potential difference between the dispersion medium and the stationary layer of fluid attached to the dispersed particle.”

Okay, that makes my head ache. And thank goodness, Steven Trainoff, director of engineering at Wyatt Technology assures me that even if I don’t exactly know what zeta potential is, I could still appreciate the importance of an instrument they are introducing at Pittcon 2010, the Möbiuζ, which Wyatt claims can more precisely and easily measure the electrophoretic mobility of proteins than other methods.

Accurate measurement of protein electrophoretic mobility—which is related to the zeta potential—is especially important in formulating protein drugs. That’s because protein drugs must be charged in a formulation. The charge must be high enough to ensure that proteins are stable—individual molecules repel each other—but not so high that not enough molecules can be crammed in the formulation. It’s therefore critical to know the charge on the molecule, which can be inferred from the electrophoretic mobility.

Now, many instruments out there can measure electrophoretic mobility, Trainoff says, but they are not good with small proteins, such as the 14.4-kilodalton lysozyme, in the high concentration that they exist in a formulation. That’s because as proteins become smaller, the noise from diffusion becomes too much. Wyatt’s new optical instrument solves this problem by using an array of 30 photodiode detectors instead of the usual single detector. The massively parallel detection system means faster detection and higher sensitivity than is possible with other instruments. For example, Wyatt’s Möbiu? can determine the electrophoretic mobility of a 1-mg/mL sample of immunoglobulin G in about 30 seconds.

Watch out for the March 29 issue for C&EN’s official coverage of Pittcon 2010. Senior Correspondent Stu Borman will summarize the highlights and trends, Senior Correspondent Steve Ritter will compile the most noteworthy instruments on display, and Senior Editors Celia Henry and Mitch Jacoby will report from the technical sessions.

First Impressions At Pittcon – Part 4

I had back-to-back meetings with 10 companies while at Pittcon; some of them I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. The one that left a deep impression is Anasazi, a maker of 60- and 90-MHz FT-NMR instruments that sells 90% of its products to the education market: community colleges, 4-year colleges, and even high schools.

I completed my chemistry education without ever seeing, let alone using, an NMR instrument, and I’m so excited that high school and college students can actually use, touch, and manipulate the machine instead of just learning how to read and interpret the spectra, thanks to affordable and low-maintenance products such as those from Anasazi.

Don Bouchard, president of Anasazi, tells me that Anasazi FT-NMRs are ideal for the education market because they do not use superconducting magnets that need gases and cryogenic conditions to operate. The company does have a few industry customers, he says, for applications that can be optimally executed with the 60- and 90-MHz instruments. The
difference in price, according to Don, is significant: about $100,000 for an Anasazi instrument, including a five-year warranty vs about $225,000 + $15-30,000/per year in maintenance costs for a 400-MHz spectrometer with a superconducting magnet.

Anasazi NMR spectrometers are installed at three U.S. high schools and many colleges, including at least 20 community colleges in California, Don says.

Although Anasazi’s primary customers are from academia, Don and his wife, Julie, are at Pittcon in hopes of attracting customers from industry and government labs. Those of you chemistry teachers with some Department of Education Title III money might want to talk to them.

First Impressions Of Pittcon–Part 3

C&EN’s full coverage of Pittcon 2010 will appear in the March 29 issue. In that issue, C&EN reporters Celia Arnaud, Stu Borman, Mitch Jacoby, and Steve Ritter will synthesize the four-day scientific and exhibition fest on instrumentation/analytics in highlights of product introductions, technical sessions, and industry trends. Their stories will be C&EN’s definitive take on Pittcon. What I am posting are my mere musings.





We just finished from the first ever C&EN luncheon at Pittcon, attended by 100 guests. Not a bad crowd, considering that Tuesday is the second day of the exhibition. Our luncheon guest speakers were Frank Witney, president and CEO of Dionex, and Greg Herrema, senior vice president and president of analytical instruments at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Both made a strong case of the complexity of analytical challenges in the 21st century, as well as the ability of the instrumentation/analytics to develop new methods and tools to meet these challenges. So far so good.

At Q&A period, though, not one person in the audience asked a question. What’s with that? Are people too busy, shy, wary to participate? Any ideas about how to encourage discussion during a luncheon?

Altogether, the luncheon was fine. As moderator, I asked a question with several follow ups that I think the speakers and the audience appreciated.

I’m still figuring out zeta potential, but I have to catch my flight back to Washington, DC now.

Photo credit (both): Peter Cutts Photography

First Impressions at Pittcon—Part 2

As I said yesterday, what Frank O’Connor of Heidolph Brinkmann is really excited about is Demo for Donations, which the company will implement at the ACS national meeting in San Francisco on March 21-25. According to O’Connor, Demo for Donations works like this: Meeting attendees sign up for a product demonstration at Heidolph’s booth, #1110, and Heidolph will contribute $10 per sign up to the Red Cross earthquake relief fund for Haiti.

Instead of mints, ballpens, or any of the usual freebie trinkets at exhibitions to get people to stop at their booth, Heidolph believes that Demo for Donations will attract more traffic because, as O’Connor’s explains, it offers attendees “a way to give something back to the community.” I warned O’Connor that the San Francisco might attract more than 12,000 people, and Heidolph could be deluged with sign ups. O’Connor’s expectations are conservative, about 1,500.

Well, ACS national meeting attendees, perhaps you can help O’Connor exceed expectations. Again the place to do something good for Haiti in San Francisco is booth #1110.

From Heidolph, I next visited Wyatt Technologies. They’re excited about a new instrument that measures something related to zeta potential and has a key application in protein drug formulation. I’ll tell more about this advance in Part 3. Right now I have to understand what zeta potential is. Can anyone help?

First Impressions At Pittcon

pittcon2010For Pittcon 2010, the Orange County Convention Center is in its full glory. It’s one of the most beautiful convention centers in the county, said Annette Wilson, president of Pittcon 2010, at the opening ceremonies this morning, and I agree. It looks gorgeous from the outside. It is also huge, so huge that despite hosting more than 2,000 booths, more than 1000 exhibitors, and more than 2,000 technical papers, Pittcon occupies only the West Section. Advance registration totals more than 14,000.

I’ve had interesting conversations since the first function I attended, the Waters Symposium Dinner last night. There I met James A. de Haseth, a senior partner of a company based in Georgia called Light Light Solutions. It makes instruments that help analyze fibers as they are processed for various uses, including as alternatives to glass. De Haseth tells me the company is working with Canadian groups that are interested in natural fibers such as flax as superstrong, superlight materials for industrial applications.

Another interesting conversation was with Patricia A. Bordell, Pittcon’s chair for shortcourses. She works with the College Board, the organization best known for the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program. Bordell goes around the country and the world to train teachers who teach AP and pre-AP chemistry. The push now by the College Board, she says, is to train chemistry teachers to apply inquiry-based learning in pre-college chemistry classrooms.

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Blame It On The Brain(s) Behind The ACIEs Puns

So. My breaking point came a few weeks ago when I read one of ACIE’s genius abstract caption titles, “Just another Mannich Monday.” After laughing out loud, I proceeded to hum the cheesy tune by the Bangles, loudly, from C&EN’s rooftop Berlin office, for three days. From here until perpetuity, the lyrics “I can’t be late because I guess I just won’t get paid” will remind me of Mannich-derived, stereoselective, one-pot syntheses of “spirocycles, 1-aminoindanes, and 5,6-fused azabicycles that have a quaternary carbon center.”

Yeah yeah. I know I’m not the first to grin, groan, or comment about the puns, pop references, and general goofiness ACIE puts into its online abstracts. Many a blogger (Derek Lowe, Excimer, “Phil,” and Chiral Jones ) have also, um, “admired” ACIE’s ability to bring Shakespeare (“Double, double, no toil and trouble”), Star Trek (“Beam me up,” twice), the X-files (“The truth is out there“), and the disembodied voice from the London Underground (“Mind the gap”) into the world of chemistry. The journal has even gotten pretty risqué of late with “Metal ménage à trois” and “Balls galore!”

But Mannich Monday followed soon on the heels of the caption “The Write Stuff,” which permitted the New Kids On The Block hit–(oh yes, here’s the video)–to breach my consciousness for the first time in 20 years—a particularly traumatic reminder of the boy band phenomenon.

So much so, that I had to meet the evil mastermind behind it all.
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Snoverkill Safety

Safety goggles protect the eyes from more than stray chemicals: this hardy worker protects his eyes from the driving wind and snow of today’s Snowpocalypse III, Snoverkill, GroceryStore Thunderdome, Snoverload, whatever you want to call it.

Although ACS offices have been closed all week, C&EN is still operating, and we do need to eat. Venturing into the tempest, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Maureen Rouhi, Associate Editor Linda Wang, and I went to pick up lunch for the seven of us who stayed in hotels in town or braved the commute to get to headquarters and produce the magazine on schedule. On our way back with the victuals, we encountered this fellow shoveling the sidewalk in front of the hotel/restaurant.

C&EN Enjoys Snoverkill

C&EN Enjoys Snoverkill

Most people in DC seem to have taken a light-hearted outlook to the past couple Snowpocalypses, unlike the first one in December, when a cop pulled a gun at a snowball fight. This fellow chuckled and was very happy to have his picture taken with Linda. As quoted from a fellow C&ENer who saw this photo, “Linda looks like she’s about to happily bonk the equally happy grinning dude! Reminds me of Japanese TV!”

Livening Up The Debate In Copenhagen

Among well-dressed diplomats and thousands of journalists at the U.N. climate change meeting in Copenhagen are plenty of young activists who liven up the rather dimly lit hallways.

aliens edited

These not-so-little green men are pushing for Japan to pledge a specific amount to help developing countries address climate change.

IndyAct 1

There’s IndyAct, a group of young people from the Middle East. They want the world to know that Saudi efforts to protect and maintain the petroleum industry aren’t representative of the entire Arab world. Their campaign is Can’t Drink Oil.

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