Interview conducted by Matthew Rafferty
Why are Testa Analytical involved in polymer characterization and particle sizing?
In the eyes of Testa Analytical polymer characterization in terms of chromatography and particle sizing using DLS are just two ways of looking at the same subject. We look at the same material from two different points of views which in turn gives us a better understanding of the whole material which is exactly what Testa Analytical strives to provide the solution for.
Can you give me a brief insight into what Testa Analytical are doing at the moment?
At the moment, we are in the process of completing our full line of chromatography equipment focused on the GPC/SECs, polymer characterization. This ‘full line’ of products consists of pump injectors, column ovens, RI detectors, UV detectors, and viscometers. These areas are the backbone of most GPC/SEC systems and this makes this commercially an excellent area to go into and in terms of research focus and key area that needs to be strengthened. Most of our instruments have already been completed and are currently on the market, the ‘missing links’ will be released later this year (2018) for the GPC/SEC applications.
What instruments are you focusing on?
The instrument that we are focusing on as a key area is our Viscometer. Viscometers have been on the market for 20 years and are very well known for GPC and SEC applications, however, most viscometers on the market have common flaws. We have been able to develop a new instrument, which helps overcome these well-known problems and delivers a much higher sensitivity and stability than any other system on the market today.
What are the flaws in current viscometers?
The standard viscometer design implies that after the measurement of the sample, which is a peak or number of peaks, you will find the very same signal mirrored in the negative peaks after some time. In practice, the user, after injection of the sample, has to wait for this negative part of the sample to come out of the viscometer before you can inject the next sample. This basically doubles the requirement in terms of measurement time and liquid volume for every sample. Our new design has overcome this meaning that this phenomenon, which is usually called break through does not occur. This lack of break through allows the use to benefit from a reduced measurement time to just the exact time required to dilute this peak. This means less solvent waste leading to greater system efficiency because there is also less time spent waiting for the negative peak to be eluted from the instrument.
What do you provide outside of the instrumental solution in help and support?
I personally have been involved in this field for 30 years so I have accumulated a large amount of experience in a number of different applications within the GPC/SEC and viscometer fields. We mainly serve the R&D market, so we usually deal with problems and materials which will hit the common market 10 years later after full production and development of machines, methodologies and materials have been approved. This experience gives us the ability to help users with their particular applications, whether it's a new material that they need conduct structural analysis on, or, it's a known material but they need to set up a solid quality control routine in order to assure quality of the material.
Why will people want to choose Testa Analytical?
People come to Testa analytical, because this is a really niche field when we consider the total analytical market. Polymer characterization is really a very small and niche field, big companies that are operating in the market usually are not interested in this type of application simply because the market is too small. It requires a too high expertise, so they're not able and not willing to help customers and to supply the support which is necessary to understand certain measurements or to understand certain phenomena the user might observe with the measurements. That's why a small company like we are, are totally focused on only this area of application, only these problems, are the best address for serious users who really want to get the best out of their equipment.
Where do you see polymer characterization particle sizing moving towards in the next few years?
There are developments in the technical point of view, and, of course, in commercial point of view. From the technical point of you, what we see is a trend to reduce total consumption of solvents, for example, as solvents used in a GEC mostly are aggressive, corrosive and toxic, so there's a general trend to try to reduce this consumption as much as possible. That's why we have our own viscometer which complies exactly with this new trend whilst also reducing the quantity of solvent. Reducing flow implies that at the highest sensitivity's required as sample volume injected is usually reduced. This is the technical trend we are observing. We are working in this direction as we think it's an important improvement.
In terms of the commercial changes we are convinced that within two years the market will develop more and more into instrument rental instead of instrument purchases, as this has happened in other industries already. However, in order to serve this market, instruments must be designed for that task in terms that higher interest in remote diagnostics and absolute quality, so that the customer knows that whatever instruments he rents, this instrument will perform top for the whole time of the rental without need of constant maintenance or constant service. This is also something we're working with. It's a commercial development accompanied with the technical requirement to the individual instruments.
Carlo Dessy has over 30 years of experience in design of instruments and components for chromatography use and in particular for GPC/SEC applications. He is the CEO of TESTA Analytical Solutions, a Germany based company focused on instrumentation for polymer and particle characterization. TESTA Analytical Solutions offers a dedicated range of GPC/SEC Detectors including proprietary viscometer and DRI and also is able to supply a wide portfolio of instruments for particle sizing and zeta potential.
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