Melamine in milk can be detected using NIR spectroscopy

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Milk powder is one of the most heavily regulated food products in China, and is becoming increasingly so in the rest of the world. Milk powder, especially when it comprises an ingredient of baby formula milk powder, has attracted considerable attention. Recently, several thousand babies in China became ill, having suffered acute kidney failure, with several fatalities, after being fed formula milk powder contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.

Read more: Melamine in milk can be detected using NIR spectroscopy


European program chair at FACSS

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Pavel Matousek (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, UK) has been voted in as the Program Chair for FACSS 2011. This is the first time a scientist outside North America has been elected to this post. FACSS 2011 will be held in Reno, NV, between 2 and 6 October.

Gordon F. Kirkbright Bursary Award, 2010

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The Gordon F. Kirkbright bursary award is a prestigious annual award that enables a promising student/non-tenured young scientist of any nation to attend a recognised scientific meeting or visit a place of learning.

The fund for this 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. Although the fund is administered by the Association of British Spectroscopists (ABS) Trust, the award is not restricted to spectroscopists.

Applications are invited for the 2010 Gordon Kirkbright Bursary. For further information contact John Chalmers by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The closing date for entries is 31 December 2009.


High-flying mass spec

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The ability of biological particles, such as bacteria, fungal spores and plant material, to trigger ice formation in clouds is suggested by a study published in Nature Geoscience (doi: 10.1038/ngeo521). The finding could prove important because the effect of airborne partilces on the formation of cloud ice is one of the largest remaining sources of uncertainty in climate change projections.

Read more: High-flying mass spec


Award for IMS/MS publication

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Professor Alison Ashcroft of the University of Leeds, UK, is the winner of the first Ron Hites Award for Outstanding Research Publication from the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

Read more: Award for IMS/MS publication


Award for Robin Clark

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Professor Robin J.H. Clark of University College London is the recipient of the inaugural Franklin–Lavoisier Prize, which was presented on 28 January at the Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie in Paris during the Chimie et Art conference. The Franklin–Lavoisier Prize was created in 2008 and is jointly awarded by the Fondation de la Maison de Chimie and the Chemical Heritage Foundation in the USA. The prize aims to recognise unusually meritorious efforts in the preservation or promotion of the entwined scientific heritage of France and the United States.


OSA honorary membership for Theodor Hänsch

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Professor Th.W. Hänsch, Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik and Chair of Physics at Ludwig Maximilians University, Germany, and Professor Roy J. Glauber, Professor of Physics at Harvard University, USA, have been selected as new honorary members of the Optical Society of America “for their extraordinary contributions to the field of optics”. In 2005, Professor Hänsch shared one half of the Nobel Prize for Physics with Professor John Hall, the other half went to Professor Glauber. The OSA reserves honorary membership “for those individuals who have a profound and lasting influence on the optics community”.


Raman spectroscopy provides IVF breakthrough

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Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, UK, have developed a technique using Raman spectroscopy to test the quality of sperm before it is used for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and increase the chances of conception. Dr Alastair Elfick, lead scientist on the project, explained: “in natural conception the fittest and healthiest sperm are positively selected by the arduous journey they make to the egg. What our technology does is to replace natural selection with a DNA-based ‘quality score’.” This can then be used to decide whether the sperm is healthy enough to be used to fertilise an egg as part of the IVF treatment.

The sperm are captured in two highly focussed beams of laser light, optical tweezers, and then the DNA of an individual sperm can be analysed from its Raman spectrum. The research is currently in a pre-clinical phase, and if successful could be available to patients in the next five to ten years.


More Raman fertility: pollen forecasts

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Researchers at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, have reported in Analytical Chemistry (doi: 10.1021/ac801791a) an advance toward development of technology that could underpin automated, real-time systems for identifying specific kinds of plant pollen circulating in the air.

Scientists have identified chemical structures in pollen, shown covering the face and legs of a Marmelade fly, that could help provide a real-time pollen detection and warning system to help allergy sufferers. Credit: André Karwath

Janina Kneipp and colleagues explain that current pollen counts and allergy warnings are based on visual identification of the specific kind of pollen by examining pollen grains under a microscope. That procedure takes time, making it impossible for allergy-sufferers to know the kinds of pollen that are airborne on an hour-by-hour basis. The researchers describe using Raman spectroscopy to identify chemical structures in pollen grains that distinguish oak and maple pollen, for instance, from maple and other kinds. They obtained these chemical “signatures” for 15 different kinds of tree pollen.


IR helps improve crystal growth

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The creation of a reproducible crystallisation process is a fundamental challenge to drug manufacturers, but a technique using infrared spectroscopy could provide an answer. Engineers at the University of Leeds, UK, have developed the technique to monitor supersaturation, required for crystallisation to begin to occur.

Most drug compounds are crystalline, manufactured in batch process systems. Small changes in crystallisation process conditions, such as temperature and cooling rates, can significantly affect the structure of the resulting crystals, something which affects both their physical properties and their performance.

The new technique uses a probe attached to an infrared spectrometer to monitor the concentration of a specific chemical in solution. In laboratory experiments, this technique was used on the batch cooling crystallisation of chemical L-Glutamic acid (LGA). The information gained from the IR spectrometer is coupled with chemometric data to provide a more detailed analysis of the crystallisation process than has been possible with other IR spectroscoopy techniques.

Dr Mahmud from the University of Leeds’ School of Process, Environemtal and Materials Engineering explains: “Using a chemometric approach enables us to take many more parameters into account, which makes it a more reliable predictor of the optimum concentration levels required to produce a particular crystal structure.”

The technique was developed by engineers at Leeds and researchers at Newcastle and Heriot-Watt universities as part of the Chemicals Behaving Badly programme which is funded by the UK’s EPRC, along with ten industrial partners.

The work has been published in Crystal Growth & Design, doi: 10.1021/cg7010265


Pittcon Awards

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A number of spectroscopists are being honoured at the Pittsburgh Conference in March in Chicago, USA.

2009 Ralph N. Adams Awardee: Graham Cooks (Purdue University, USA)
Graham Cooks’ interests involve construction of mass spectrometers and their use in fundamental studies and applications. His interest in minimising sample work-up and avoiding chromatography contributed to the development of the ambient ionisation methods, including desorption electrospray ionisation (DESI). Applications of this method in tissue imaging, forensics and pharmaceutics are in progress.

2009 Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Awardee: Ira W. Levin (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, USA)
Ira Levin’s research interests lie primarily in the applications of vibrational infrared and Raman spectroscopic techniques toward the elucidation of the conformational, dynamical, thermo­dynamic and functional properties of both intact and model membrane assemblies and related systems. Current efforts are in actively translating laboratory imaging research into clinical venues.

2009 Bomem–Michelson Awardee: Martin Quack (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich, Switzerland)

2009 Williams–Wright Awardee: Jerome (Jerry) J. Workman, Jr (Luminous Medical Inc., USA)
Jerry Workman’s career has focussed on molecular spectroscopy, including near infrared, infrared, ultraviolet-visible, process analysis and chemometrics. He has served as Chair of the Industrial Advisory Board for the Center for Process Analytical Chemistry (CPAC) at the University of Washington; The Council for Near Infrared Spectroscopy; and is immediate past Chairman of ASTM Main Committee E13 on Molecular Spectroscopy and Separation Science.

2009 Maurice F. Hasler Awardee: Gary M. Hieftje (Indiana University, USA)
Gary M. Hieftje’s research interests include the investigation of basic mechanisms in atomic emission, absorption, fluorescence and mass spectrometric analysis, and the development of instrumentation and techniques for atomic methods of analysis. He is interested also in the on-line computer control of chemical instrumentation and experiments, the use of time-resolved luminescence processes for analysis, the application of information theory to analytical chemistry, analytical mass spectrometry, NIR reflectance analysis, and the use of stochastic processes to extract basic and kinetic chemical information.


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