Research News

Synchrotron radiation helps preserve Tudor warship

The Mary Rose was Henry VIII’s principal warship for 35 years until she sank outside Portsmouth, UK, in 1545. In 1982 substantial remains of the hull were raised and are currently undergoing conservation whilst open to the public in Portsmouth dockyard. An international team has been analysing the sulphur and iron composition in the timbers of the Mary Rose to determine the potential threat from these. They used synchrotron X-rays from the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (USA) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (France); results have been published in PNAS. They found that there are about two tons of sulphur in different compounds rather uniformly distributed within the 280ton hull. The sulphur species present in the wood were determined at SSRL and their precise location at the micrometre level at ESRF. By studying thin wood slices cut perpendicularly to the cell walls at X-ray microscopy beamline ID21, they found high concentrations of organo-sulphur compounds in the lignin-rich areas between the cells, which may have helped preserve the ship while it was submerged. This helped to understand how accessible and reactive the different sulphur compounds found are to acid-producing oxidation.

Plenty of iron and pyrite is also present in the Mary Rose, which is a concern, since in the moist wood iron ions can catalyse the conversion of sulphur to sulphuric acid in the presence of oxygen. The investigators suggest that chemical treatments to remove or stabilise the remaining iron and sulphur compounds and reducing humidity and oxygen access are requirements for long-term preservation.,



The first CIDETEC award for scientific research has been presented to Professor Antonio Aldaz Riera for his work, “In situ Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy on Electrodes with Platinum and Palladium Nanoparticle Ensembles”. The award was preented during the XXVII Meeting of the Electrochemical Specialisation Group of the Royal Spanish Chemical Society.


Kirkbright Bursary 2006

The prestigious Gordon F. Kirkbright Bursary enables a promising non-tenured young scientist of any nation to attend a recognised scientific meeting or visit a place of learning. The fund for the bursary was established in 1985 as a memorial to Professor Gordon Kirkbright in recognition of his contributions to analytical spectroscopy and to science in general. The fund is administered by the Association of British Spectroscopists (ABS) Trust.

Applications for the 2006 Gordon Kirkbright Bursary are invited. The award is not restricted to spectroscopists. The closing date for entries is 1 March 2006. For further information, contact John Chalmers, VS Consulting, 14 Croft Hills, Tame Bridge, Stokesley, UK, Fax: +44-1642-714306, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Proteomics database

The European Bioinformatics Institute and Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) of Ghent University have launched the Proteomics IDEntifications database (PRIDE). This enables proteomics researchers to share information more readily. According to Henning Hermjakob, leader of the EBI’s Proteomics Services Team, “Proteomics labs were publishing their own identifications, but they had no guidelines as what information should be captured or how the information should be formatted. The proteomics community rapidly realised that researchers would only be able to exploit the results of their endeavours if they had a central repository that would allow them to make their results publicly available using agreed data standards.”

Large sets of data already available in PRIDE include the results of the Human Proteome Organisation’s Plasma Proteome Project and a human platelet proteome set published by Ghent University. PRIDE is completely open source: the database, source code, data and support tools are freely available for web access or download and local installation.


IR spectroscopy detects contaminated meat

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Research presented by Dr David Ellis of the University of Manchester at the 157th meeting of the Society for General Microbiology at Keele University, UK, showed that infrared spectroscopy can be used to detect chicken and beef contaminated with bacteria. Whilst modern food processing is highly automated, inspection of the food is not and detection of bacteria can take at least several hours. The IR technique can be incorporated into production lines and provide detection online. It is hoped that the method can be extended to other food products such as milk, ice cream, cheese and other dairy products, fruit juices and other foods.

Magnetic resonance with the Earth’s field

Researchers at the Research Centre Jülich and the RWTH Aachen University of Technology in Germany have shown that it is possible to use the Earth’s magnetic field to perform magnetic resonance measurements. They have demonstrated that high-resolution Xe NMR can be carried out using just the Earth’s magnetic field.

A wide and diverse range of applications may be possible. As well as chemical analyses outdoors and in areas where it would be impossible to utilise conventional magnets, a number of geophysical analyses are possible. Dr Stephan Appelt from the Research Centre Jülich suggests that the Earth’s magnetic field could be surveyed with great precision and that it may be possible to gain a better understanding of earthquake risks along local fault lines, or of volcanism. Another application, in astrophysics, could be the measurement of the solar wind, which is deviated by the Earth’s magnetic field.

Finally, xenon-containing contrast media, inhaled or injected, could be used to obtain MRI scans on patients without the need for large and expensive magnets.


Mobilising IMS for biomedical research

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A new national initiative in ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) which aims to explore the use of IMS measurement within the pharmaceutical and biomedical fields has been launched in the UK. Professor Colin Creaser from Nottingham Trent University and Dr Paul Thomas from the University of Manchester are leading a consortium of experts and industrial partners, who will evaluate the potential of IMS in areas such as high-speed separations of complex mixtures and structural characterisation of pharmaceuticals and biomolecules.

This initiative will create a platform for a programme of internationally competitive research. As well as the two lead universities, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Waters have pledged their support. So far £530,000 has been committed to the initiative.

Colin Creaser commented that “We are at an important crossroad in the development of IMS from applications principally in the security field to a technique used widely in pharmaceutical discovery and biomedical diagnostics”.


Online symposium on MALDI fundamentals

The European Journal of Mass Spectrometry is organising a “Symposium in Print” (SiP) on MALDI Fundamentals and Related Phenomena, which is being edited by Richard Knochenmuss of Novartis. Papers submitted to this special issue of the journal will be made available to all those who register for the SiP; registration is free. Discussion of the papers will take place online and the edited discussion along with the papers will be published in print and online.

All those with an interest in this area are invited to register for the Symposium in Print at and participate in the discussion.


Stray light correction

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a new, simple method to correct errors arising from the presence of stray light. The new NIST method can nearly eliminate stray light errors, to less than 0.001% of the total signal. The method was implemented and validated using a commercial CCD-array spectrograph. They characterised the response to monochromatic emissions from tunable lasers that covered the instrument’s full spectral range. Calculations were made using the measured data to produce a matrix that quantified the magnitude of the stray-light signal for every element of the detector array for every wavelength. The matrix was then used to correct the instrument’s output signals for stray light. The method is simple and fast enough to be incorporated into an instrument’s software to perform real-time stray-light corrections without much reduction in the instrument’s speed. Contact Yuqin Zong ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) for more information.


Underwater MS

Scientists and engineers at the University of South Florida’s Center for Ocean Technology are developing equipment to allow mass spectrometers to be used under the ocean to analyse dissolved gases and volatile organic compounds in the deep marine environment. They have already developed protective housings that allow the mass spectrometer to be deployed at more than 1100ft and are now working on going to depths of up to three miles.

Underwater MS provides valuable information on significant gases such as methane, oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as harmful compounds such as benzene, chloroform and toluene.


X-ray spectrometer detects calcium on the Moon

The D-CIXS X-ray spectrometer on board the European Space Agency’s (ESA) SMART-1 spacecraft has made the first unambiguous remote-sensing detection of calcium on the Moon. SMART-1 is currently performing the verification and calibration of its instruments, while flying in orbit 450km above the Moon at its closest distance.

Although it is still preparing for full lunar operations, D-CIXS has already started sending back high-quality data. D-CIXS is designed to measure the global composition of the Moon by measuring its X-ray fluorescence. Under normal solar illumination, it can detect elemental Mg, Al and Si and several other elements during solar flares.

On 15 January 2005, between 07:00 and about 09:00 Central European Time, a solar flare occurred. “The Sun was kind to us”, said Professor Manuel Grande of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, leader of the D-CIXS instrument team. “It set off a large X-ray flare just as we took our first look downwards at the lunar surface.”

At the time of the solar flare, D-CIXS was observing Mare Crisium, and detected the presence of calcium there in other neighbouring areas (see Figure).

D-CIXS is an ultra-compact X-ray camera and forms one of the most innovative elements of the SMART-1 scientific instrumentation. It is a cube just 15cm wide, weighing less than 5kg. D-CIXS is the first instrument of its kind to be tested in space. It is also the first X-ray spectrometer ever flown around the moon with sufficient spectral resolution to separate signals coming from different chemical elements.


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