The Role of Analytical Chemistry in Industry and Manufacturing

Industry and the manufacturing sector use multiple analytical chemical methods, whether for new product development, processing, or quality control. This article outlines the research to be presented at Pittcon on the advances being made in analytical chemistry and their application in industry and manufacturing.

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Spectroscopy is a valuable analytical tool for a wide range of sectors. Several talks will focus on Raman spectroscopy as a highly versatile analytical tool, which can be used in chemical processing from laboratory to manufacturing. Raman spectroscopy’s use in polymer science to measure and control chemical processes is a particular focus.

The technique is becoming increasingly relevant as chemical manufacturing expands to include new developments such as batch reactions, microreactors, flow synthesis, and continuous processes. Pittcon will hear examples of using Raman spectroscopy to improve process efficiency and predict reaction end-times and physical properties of chemical mixtures.

Another analytical tool with many industrial and manufacturing applications is mass spectrometry (MS). A wide range of applications make use of MS, including forensics and pollution monitoring. In particular, Pittcon will hear how MS is used in the food industry throughout supply chains and product safety departments. Food manufacturers need to provide safe, high-quality food that meets standards and regulations.

Pittcon will discuss the specific issue of pesticide residues in food. Food manufacturers rely on powerful analytical tools to help them comply with regulations and meet high standards in food safety and quality. Analytical labs need to identify and measure hundreds of different pesticides with wide-ranging physicochemical properties in hundreds of different sample types. MS and its adaptions (GC-MS/MS or LC-MS/MS) play a key role in providing rapid, cost-effective analysis of pesticide residues. A presentation of Pittcon will report improvements to current sample presentation methods, which result in more effective GC-MS/MS workflows.

R&D, innovation, and technological advances are critical for industrial competitiveness and form the basis of economic growth. Manufacturing innovation has the potential to affect every part of a business, from design, R&D, production, supply chain, and logistics management through to sales, marketing, and end-of-life management.

Portable instruments are one example of innovation in analytical chemistry and manufacturing that will come under the spotlight at Pittcon. Small, tough, and capable of generating results rapidly and accurately, these devices bring analytical techniques out of the lab and into the real world. Highly flexible, they can be used to identify and verify chemicals and materials in the field using a range of spectroscopic technologies.

Applications of portable analyzers include detecting narcotics, explosives, and unknown chemicals in the field; and contaminants or hazardous material in consumer goods, electronics, and medical devices. Pittcon will hear how handheld spectrometers have been developed to discriminate between multiple brands of an injectable hormonal drug. This non-destructible and rapid screening approach means there is no need for further chemical testing methods, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Easy-to-use diagnostic tests offer great potential for global health and infectious disease management. Another talk at Pittcon will report on a powerful, highly flexible diagnostic testing device for COVID-19 designed to be used at point of care on multiple samples and in multiple settings. It offers significant advantages over the current PCR standard test for COVID-19, which has to be done in laboratories and can take several hours, if not days.

The R&D departments at chemical and engineering companies are constantly inventing, developing, and commercializing new chemical processes and materials. Markets and customers demand higher quality, enhanced performance, greater durability, more precision, and lower prices. As well as establishing a competitive advantage in a global marketplace, companies are seeking to become more sustainable and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Today there is a global demand for more energy and for more clean energy. This demand is driving developments in technology and new materials. A growing research area is developing hydrogen as a promising alternative fuel for use in transportation and electricity generation. However, current standards require manufacturers to use highly sensitive methods to detect contaminants in hydrogen such as sulfur-containing compounds. Such methods are also needed to measure ultra-traces of sulfur-based compounds in air, which are toxic at the low-ppb level.

A presentation at Pittcon will report on a new alternative method of detection based on Enhanced Plasma Discharge (Epd) technology which is more robust and easier to use than current techniques, making it better suited for process and environmental monitoring.

Remote process monitoring is the subject of another talk which will describe how a new Raman spectrometry system has been developed that can measure solid samples at a microscopic scale. Advances in Raman systems is also the subject of another presentation reporting on improving the technique’s stability and precision over the long-term.

This year’s Pittcon will host (virtually) many presentations and exhibits that will provide insight into the vital role analytical chemistry plays in industry and manufacturing. Several market-leading providers of analytical equipment, products, and services will be attending to talk about their range of systems. Companies include Kaiser Optical, Thermo Fisher Scientific, B&W Tek, HORIBA Scientific, and Renishaw.

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