What do nearly 30,000 analytical chemist and New Orleans, La have in common? PittCon 2000. The 51st Pittsburgh Conference of Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy was held in New Orleans, La. March 12–17, 2000. PittCon is a meeting of analytical chemists that includes technical sessions and an exhibitor exposition floor. More than 1,000 exhibitors of analytical instrumentation, laboratory supplies, and services touted their wares at this year’s meeting. According to the official summary statistics for the conference, there were 2,198 technical papers presented, 3,304 exhibitor booths, 1,280 exhibiting companies, and 27,670 attendees at this year’s PittCon. Next year’s PittCon 2001 will be held March 4-9, 2001 in New Orleans, La.

PittCon 2000 ReportFor food scientists, several technical sessions were of interest, such as one on “Bioanalytical Techniques for Food Safety” arranged by R.A. Durst, Cornell University. This symposium focused on some of the newer analytical techniques that may someday provide a greater measure of safety in the prevention of food-related illness.

Pernendu Vasavada from the Animal & Food Science Dept. at the Univ. of Wisconsin examined some of the newer bioanalytical techniques currently in use to rapidly detect pathogens and their toxins. Antje Baeumner from Cornell Univ. discussed the development of a novel biosensing system for detecting viable Cryptosporidium parvum, a protozoan that is highly resistant to current water treatment practices. Marco Mascini from the Dept. of Public Sanitation at Univ. of Florence (Italy) presented a lecture on his research coupling the polymerase chain reaction with piezoelectric DNA biosensors for detecting pathogenicity. Bruce Hammock from the Dept. of Entomology at the Univ. of Calif. at Davis described research on the development of novel immunoassays and sensors for monitoring applications. John Ezzell from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick in Maryland spoke on the subject of food as a bioterrorism weapon to further emphasize the need for real-time bioanalytical techniques for rapidly monitoring our nation’s food supply.

A wide variety of improvements in food analytical instruments were exhibited on the show floor. One prominent trend this year was the move by many instrument and lab supplier companies to add an e-commerce component to their operations. Most of the major companies now offer the ability to order instruments and supplies online. They also are offering technical support online.

Waters Corp. offered scientists the ability to purchase consumables and spare parts from their company online at c.shop.com. Users of the site can search for, view, price, and place orders for more than 10,000 different columns, sample preparation products, and parts. Agilent Technologies, Chemical Analysis Group’s Web Site at www.agilent.com/chem provides U.S.-based chemists to purchase consumables and accessories from their desktops. LabSeek.com featured their service of providing companies needing scientific testing and expertise with access to world-class laboratories and other scientists through its secure Web site, www.labseek.com. The new venture is said to allow scientists to quickly overcome scientific impasses by identifying member laboratories capable of delivering virtually any type of scientific service, based on its growing proprietary database of the world’s finest labs. Perkin-Elmer Corp. has implemented a program to address the e-commerce needs of their customers. They envision their effort having content, support, and commerce functions. ChemIndustry.com announced at the PittCon meeting that they had purchased the the Chemical Industry Home Page. This company provides free comprehensive search services for professionals in the chemical, biochemical, plastics, and pharmaceutical industries.

The wide variety of instrument offerings included the following:

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Zymark (Hopkinton, Mass.) featured their SciClone™ pipetting workstation that provides fast and accurate liquid transfers, reagent additions, and plate reformatting with 96 well and 384 well mircoplate formats.

Cyrano Sciences Inc. (Pasdena, Calif.) unveiled the Cyranose 320, the first polymer composite sensor-based handheld electronic nose at this year’s PittCon. The Cyranose 320 enables customers to easily classify odors for a variety of industry applications. Initial uses for the Cyranose 320 include chemical quality control and inspection for the food quality industry, where the device can rapidly sense off-odors associated with food manufacturing and packaging. “Food producers often use human sensory panels in these applications. The Cyrano Sciences technology represents a cost-effective method of improving these activities,” said Richard Sill, vice president of sales & marketing for Cyrano Sciences Inc. “Much like vision inspection is used in the electronics industry, olfactory inspection is ideally suited to the food industry.” The company claims that the device’s composite sensors can detect volatiles with molecular weights from 30 to 250. They have demonstrated the sensitivity and discrimination to pure solvents (butanol, toluene, DMSO), complex mixtures (commercially available perfumes), natural products (essential oils, coffees, fruits) and byproducts from the metabolic breakdown of bacteria. Upon exposure to a sample some of the sample will partition into the unit’s polymers. This causes the polymer to ‘swell’ and that swelling generally reduces the conductance through the sensor. This causes a resistance change that the device measures. The device incorporates a graphic LCD with back lighting. Connection ports will enable downloading of data into a spread-sheet package. Rapid response time, combined with easy one-button operation provides an effective and accurate measure of the vapors present. Standard, easily replaceable or rechargeable batteries supply power. Housed in a robust, water-resistant case, the portable electronic nose may be used in a variety of food processing environments. The sensors in the unit have been shown to respond to a wide range of organic compounds, bacteria, and natural products. The company will work with users to develop techniques for a particular application.

Beckman Coutler (Miami, Fla.) introduced a new particle image and size analyzer. The new RapidVue has been designed to analyze particulate material, which may not be spherical in shape. Though it can be used to determine the shape of spheres, the unit may also be used to analyze fibers, crystals, powders, polymers, and other materials with varying aspect ratios, in liquid. No matter the shape of the material, the RapidVue can provide aspect ratio and size information.

Atomic Force Microscopy is a useful investigative tool that provides three dimensional images of surface topography of biological specimens in ambient liquid or gas environments and over a large of temperatures. Unlike electron microscopes, samples do not need to be stained, coated, or frozen. Lateral resolution of 1nm has been achieved on biological samples such as DNA molecules. The technique was being offered by Digital Instruments, Veeco Metrology Group, Santa Barbara, Calif.

A new near infrared reflectance (NIR) analyzer, the KJT-270, for use in the laboratory and QA/QC applications has been introduced by Kett U.S (Anaheim, Calif.). The analyzer is said to utilize a “smart sensor” design that integrates calibration and memory storage, measurement display, and data output from within the sensor itself. The unit’s multiple filter design provides the user with fully transferable calibrations. Users can calibrate a single system in one location and then ship fully calibrated and certified sensors to other plants by transferring the coefficient data only. The unit allows users to measure moisture, fat/oil, protein, ethanol, and other organic substances during any phase of processing.

Bruker’s (Billerica, Mass.) benchtop NMR analyzer, the minispec, has received a certificate of Model Approval for official determination of oil content in sunflowers. The USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration granted approval for the technique in December of 1999. Besides oilseed measurements, other typical applications for the unit are solid fat content in edible fats/oils and moisture and fat/oil content in chocolate or powders.

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HunterLab (Reston, Va.) offered a new color measurement spectrophotometer, the ColorQuest® XE for the food industry. The spectrophotometer is said to provide precision and reliability at an affordable price. It measures the color of solid or liquid food products for research and quality control applications. It features diffuse/8° geometry that measures both reflectance and transmittance as well as transmission haze. The unit includes software for collecting, displaying, analyzing, and storing data.

Textron Systems (Wilmington, Mass.), working with Case Corp., has announced a new setup to give farmers the ability to measure protein and oil levels in corn, soybean, and wheat grains as they are being harvested. The grain analyzer will be integrated into Case’s Advanced Farming Systems combines. In prototype testing, the analyzer will provide farmers with point-of-harvest information, so they can manage their crop production and harvesting more accurately.

The Microbiology Products division of 3M (St. Paul, Minn.) offered the 3M Quick Swab, a ready-to-use environmental swab system. The product is designed for processing plant users of environmental swabbing systems to verify pre-operation sanitation effectiveness, monitor bacteria levels during production, or measure post-operational bacterial levels. The swab system consists of a five-inch, rayon-tipped swab containing neutralizing buffer to facilitate recovery of bacteria. The swabs can be used wet or dry to sample surfaces and quickly deliver 1.0mL of sample onto a 3M™ Petrifilm™ Plate or 3M™ Redigel™ Test. The system is said to be able to decrease overall cost per swab test by reducing the labor required to prepare, gather and plate the sample. There is no need to prepare neutralizing dilutents or use a pipette to add the sample to the plate or test.

Orion Research (Beverly, Mass.) introduced a new line of electrodes to make measurement easier in difficult sample applications. The AquaPro line features a patented double junction design which isolates the Ag/AgCl reference system with a polymer. Silver ions can not contact the sample. The sealed reference allows rapid response and stability over time. The electrode has an open junction so sample components do not reduce the flows and cause drift as with traditional units.

The Direct Contact Food Analyzer (DCFA), presented by Foss NIRSystems (Eden Prairie, Minn.) is said to bring a new level of speed and convenience to routine NIR testing for food and beverage processors. The instrument’s open-platform design permits food samples to be analyzed inside their sample bags or other sealed containers. The user places the sample on the scanning stage, closes the lid, and clicks on the desired nutrient analysis. The system then returns accurate measurements of single or multiple constituents. Most solid foods, powders and semi-solid foods can be analyzed in a sample bag. Pastes, gels, slurries and highly scattering liquids can be analyzed conveniently in laboratory beakers. Many finished products like peanut butter and apple sauce can even be tested in the jar. Testing clear and semi-transparent liquids requires the use of optional liquid sample cells. These provide a choice of reproducible path-lengths for reflection analysis. The DCFA will also accept powder samples in the standard reflectance cups used by other Foss NIRSystems instruments. The DCFA can be calibrated to measure all the common nutrients of interest—fats, moisture, protein, fiber, sugars, and more—in liquid or solid samples. The user’s existing primary methods are normally used as a reference.

Varian Inc. introduced their Cary® Fluorescence Spectrophotometer. The company claimed this was the first truly new mid-range fluorescence instrument in more than 10 years. It is suited for use in a range of life science measurements in the biochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Thermo LabSystems, Inc. (Beverly, Mass) launched the Nautilus™ 2000 software package. It is designed to integrate chemoinformatics and also allow the user to display spectra and chemical structures from within the LIMS.

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Non-glass pH probes for food applications were offered by Sentron (Gig Harbor, Wash.). The pH probes are intended to replace glass electrodes with a probe that contains a ISFET (Ion-Sensitive Field Effect Transistor) sensor. The probes are suited for measurement of any water-based sample even under harsh conditions. They are especially suited to applications where broken glass may be a hazard to the environment, the sample, or the user. All probes can be cleaned with a toothbrush and soap and can be stored dry. The company offers three series of probes in a variety of different tip designs to cover applications in liquids, semi-solids, and viscous solutions. Applications include the measurement of pH in meats, cheeses, dough, batters, sauces, jellies, and produce. The probes have large surface area reference diaphragms of porous Teflon to ensure good sample contact while preventing junction fouling and poisoning.

Ohaus Corp. (Florham Park, N.J.) offered their recently introduced high-precision balance the Adventurer™. The unit has 17 different weighing modes including grams, kilograms, milligrams, ounces, mommes, taels, and parts counting. Its three-button operation and large LCD display are said to make the balance easy to use and eliminate the need for extensive operator training.

Brookfield Engineering Laboratories (Middleboro, Mass.) featured their DV-III+ Rheometer. The rheometer can operate as either a stand-alone instrument or under computer control. It has built-in rheological algorithms to allow rapid and repeatable material characterization, including flow curves, yield points, time dependencies, and temperature profiles. The unit works with cone/plate and coaxial cylinder geometries as well as standard spindle sets.

Millipore Corp. (Beford, Mass.) released their Direct-Q Laboratory Water Purification System designed for scientists who need 5 to 15 L of ultrapure water per day in labs where high-quality water is not easily accessible. The system produces up to 0.6 L/min of Type I water directly from the tap, eliminating the time and expense of additional pre-treatment. The unit is said to be ideal for applications such as electrophoresis, HPLC., and spectrophotometry.

Perkin-Elmer Corp. (Norwalk, Conn.) presented their Spectrum One™, which was touted as an easy-to-use FT-IR system with their Wizard-driven software. Even infrequent users are said to be able to run turnkey analyses. The built-in IR Assistant interface guides the user through the analysis. Entire operating procedures can be fully automated–from sample to report. Each unit has a unique IP address and can be linked to any standard network.

Cole-Parmer Instrument Co. (Vernon Hills, Ill.) highlighted a variety of measurement instruments for the food industry. Included will be the waterproof pHTestr 1DJ and 2 DJ. This new line of pocket-sized pH meters contain double junction reference electrodes. The meters may be used in the lab, plant or field where a solution has heavy metal ions, sulfides, and proteins.

LT Industries (Rockville, Md.) introduced a family of Near-InfraRed (NIR) analyzers designed for the specific needs of the nutraceutical and functional food industries. The PhytoScan-B system can monitor raw plant and seed species for both the presence and the concentration of active phytochemicals that may be beneficial to human nutrition and well-being. The companion Phyto-Scan-L system can measure the same properties in fluid extracts. Both the analyzers include Iso-Pharm™software, a combination instrument driver and statistical analysis module that is said to be easy-to-use because of its icon-initiated structure and graphical user interface. The program includes system suitability testing on demand, with report-out capability for meeting with cGMP validation requirements. When asked why the company has developed systems specifically for screening dietary, nutrition, and health products, Technical Director Isaac Landa answered, “In the U.S., we see a huge growth in alternative health products. What are simply alternatives to conventional health care here are mainstream ethical drugs in other parts of the world. The U.S. consumer cannot, at present, know the strength or potency of what he has brought. Large pharmaceutical makers and vitamin suppliers are now entering this market and offering the same products with guaranteed consistency.”

Associate Editor