Most days I see cooking as a chore that takes up valuable time. I’m constantly praying for an oven that is always ready without having to be pre-heated. Just recently I invested in a precision cooker which uses the sous vide style of cooking. Sous vide provides more precise temperature control so foods are not necessarily under or over cooked and turn out more tender. The precision cooker also requires less of my attention, although it’s still not my dream oven. I can simply set the time and temperature that is recommended for my food and the cooker is working, day or night. No need to perform constant maintenance or check on the food. And the best part? I can expect consistent results because my food’s cook time and temperature are optimized. As you probably already noticed, this purchase was more about accelerating my productivity as opposed to a sudden transformation into a foodie.
If you perform ion chromatography (IC), you too can enjoy the benefits of the sous vide technique (say what?). Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed a technique called Capillary IC in which column size, injection volumes, and flow rates are reduced by a factor of 25 to 100 as depicted below.
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The skeptic in me immediately wondered why this is such a big deal. For starters, capillary ion chromatography systems can operate 24/7. The flow rate is just 10 μL/min, translating to only 15 mL of water being consumed per day and 5.2 L per year. Thus, the system can operate with continuous eluent flow, eliminating the need to wait for equilibration. Talk about a huge leap in productivity for laboratories who need to operate around the clock to deliver consistent and accurate results!
You also save on cost of system operation because the lower flow rate reduces eluent consumption and waste disposal costs. For laboratories working with precious samples, capillary ion chromatography is a true blessing given you can inject as little as 0.1 μL of sample enabled by recently introduced 100 nL valves.
I was excited to read about customers who were already experiencing the benefits of capillary ion chromatography in their laboratory. The University of Manchester purchased a capillary ion chromatography system which could quickly analyze their 4,000–5,000 samples a year that come in.
"Our capillary IC system is usually analyzing samples day and night. The one day a month that it is not analyzing samples is when I change the water for the mobile phase (eluent) and re-equilibrate the system." – Alastair D. Bewsher, Sr. Analytical Technician @ University of Manchester
Beyond productivity, the ability to inject as little as 0.1 μL of sample really helped Dartmouth University. A key challenge for ice core analysis is working with precious samples and limiting any contamination.
"Capillary IC takes ice melting technology to a whole new level. Smaller volume injections require less ice which leaves more for other analyses. Sensitivity is also a major improvement. Limits of detection have gone down by an order of magnitude." – Dr. Erich Osterberg
As I compare the benefits of a precision cooker and capillary Iion chromatography systems, it’s clear that these inventions accelerate productivity while providing consistent results. If you are interested to learn more about capillary ion chromatography, I highly recommend visiting a dedicated landing page created by Thermo Fisher Scientific. Some of the resources I found useful were case studies as well as a technical guide which includes tips and tricks and capillary ion chromatography methods.