As polymers become more complex, traditional separation techniques used to analyze the material’s composition are no longer adequate for today’s research and development demands.
But a Massachusetts lab instrument business owner, who helped build a refractometer 50 years ago, and Dow Chemical Company have teamed up to develop a system that they say can provide polymer analyses five to 20 times faster than traditional methods, reports Laboratorytalk. The system characterizes low- to mid-range molecular weight polymers that have begun to dominate product development processes.
Current analytical systems can be speedy but they produce less information. Jim Waters — the lab instrument business owner — and Dow claim that their new ACQUITY Advanced Polymer Chromatography (ATC) system, which was unveiled at a laboratory science equipment conference (Pittcon) in Philadelphia in March, does not make this compromise.
“Industry is on a constant quest to identify and understand the properties of new materials while making the process of innovation faster, simpler and more sustainable,” says Dow Chemical’s Jim Alexander, associate research and development director of Core R&D Analytical Sciences. “This new capability will help solve critical R&D challenges, helping scientists to drive to solutions more quickly, with improved data quality.”
Chromatography uses laboratory techniques to separate mixtures. The goal is to separate the components of a mixture for more advanced use. The process also measures the relative proportions of the components in the mixture. Testing laboratories often use this method to determine whether there is a contaminate in a product.
Laboratorytalk explains further how the APC system performs its analysis:
The ACQUITY APC system is comprised of a refractive index detector that has been optimised for low dispersion but with the low noise and drift performance required for accurate integration, even at low polymer concentrations. Flow stability is the most important contributor to accurate molecular weight. Calibration of a bank of columns is based on the elution time of the polymers. The long-term flow stability of the APC ensures calibration provides the right molecular weight data for the polymer.
The system has a technology based on tiny, high-pore volume, bridged-ethyl hybrid particles that help make the separations faster. The technology’s chemistries are not polymeric gel-based and thus do not swell in different solvents needed for polymer analysis.
The move away from a soft-gel technology should improve laboratory efficiency, says Ian King, a vice president of Waters’ company, Separations Technology. “With APC, scientists can run diverse polymer applications on a single system,” he says.