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  Cover Story  
  March 28,  2005
Volume 83, Number 13
pp. 39-45

Meeting has lower attendance but an abundance of innovative instruments



Over 21,000 conferees, exhibitors, and media took sunny and mild Orlando, Fla., by storm for Pittcon 2005 earlier this month--while another storm, the snowy kind, simultaneously hit the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

At this year's Pittcon, the Pittsburgh Conference & Exposition on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy, 1,132 companies showed thousands of analytical instruments and laboratory products in 2,474 exhibit booths, and the technical program featured 2,433 scientific presentations. The number of exhibitors fell 5% from 2004, and the number of booths was down 9%. At about 21,200, total registration was down 15% from last year.

Nevertheless, "the meeting is going well, with a lot of activity on the exhibit floor and in hallways and program rooms," Pittcon 2005 President Daniel A. Wilson, managing director of Clark Laboratories, Monroeville, Pa., said in an interview during the conference. Wilson believed that this year's lower numbers were due in part to the greater number of chemists in close proximity to Chicago, where Pittcon 2004 was held. In addition, it's difficult to attract the wide range of users of analytical instruments and lab equipment, many of whom are not analytical chemists, he said.

This year's turnout did not reflect the general feeling of upturn in the instrument industry, commented Stefan Fritsch, editor of the analytical and lab-equipment market newsletter Instrumenta. The lower attendance of exhibitors "might be an effect of [recent] increased merger and acquisition activity in the industry," he said, noting that at least five exhibitors this year are already in acquisition talks and thus may not all be at Pittcon next year. Moreover, the reduced number of conferees "may signify a general change in the way attendees and exhibitors access information" about new products, he said. "Recent exhibition cancellations or almost-disasters elsewhere may indicate that conference organizers need to rethink the format of their events."

"Although attendance and exhibitor participation were down at this year's Pittcon, it does not necessarily reflect badly on the annual Pittcon," said Lawrence S. Schmid, president and chief executive officer of Strategic Directions International (SDI), Los Angeles, a market research and publishing company specializing in the instrument industry. "It is simply that Orlando is not the best location for a scientific conference and exhibition--too many distractions and too few major customer sites nearby." Exhibitors may have anticipated "that Pittcon this year would be substantially less exuberant than Chicago and deliberately downsized exhibit areas and brought fewer instruments and less equipment to display."

THE "PRES" Pittcon 2005 President Wilson said he saw "a lot of activity on the exhibit floor and in hallways and program rooms."


The analytical and life sciences instrument industry "has become much broader based technically and geographically," he said. "Accordingly, no one conference can attract the kind of interest Pittcon did in years gone by. An expanded European Union and burgeoning Asian markets now command more attention than events in the U.S." In addition, "industry consolidation is still very evident, and as the larger firms get even bigger, their presence at trade shows does not increase proportionately to their increased size. Pittcon returns to Orlando in 2006, so an even greater decline can be anticipated unless a major marketing effort is conducted to reverse the trend."

Indeed, organizers' plans for future shows include "doing a more professional job of marketing Pittcon to attract new conferees and exhibitors" by emphasizing marketing efforts that span several years instead of just one at a time, Pittcon President Wilson said. "It's been a bad market for trade shows in the past few years, but Pittcon has held its own compared with some other conferences, and we're happy about that."

PROSPECTS FOR growth in the instrument business "are solid and quite predictable," Schmid said. "Steady growth in the 6% range is expected for the foreseeable future."

"The analytical and life sciences instrument industry grew 6.6% in 2004, to $26.1 billion," added Tanya Samazan, managing editor of Instrument Business Outlook, SDI's twice-monthly newsletter on the instrument market. "Among the fastest growing product segments were lab automation, mass spectrometry, and surface science. Both the life sciences and industrial end-user markets contributed to sales growth, while Asia remained the fastest growing regional market."

The total-solution approach--the combination of different instrument and software components into integrated systems designed to solve specific problems for end users--"continues to drive growth among instrument companies," Samazan said. "Such a strategy is particularly attuned to the needs of the pharmaceutical market."

Also analyzing business issues were speakers at the annual breakfast sponsored by Centcom, the American Chemical Society's advertising management arm. Chemical & Engineering News Editor-in-Chief Rudy Baum, who chaired the breakfast meeting this year, noted that the magazine has recently rededicated itself to more comprehensive coverage of instrumentation research and products.

Marijn E. Dekkers, president and CEO of Thermo Electron--a company that exemplifies industry consolidation and now has the largest single share of the analytical instrument market--said at the breakfast that the industry today sees a need to "go beyond the box" by moving toward more highly integrated systems, enhanced services, and greater software compatibility.

Integrated systems are customized for applications such as optimizing lead compounds for drug discovery. Enhanced services go beyond traditional repair, maintenance, and user-training functions to also include assisting customers with regulations, software validation, application development, and lab design. Software compatibility will enhance software usability. Software platforms in current instruments are often "grossly incompatible with each other," Dekkers said. "We've told the customer, 'You figure it out,' and they've almost forgotten to be upset about it, but this is not the way things should work."

Peter B. Coggins, president of life and analytical sciences at PerkinElmer, noted at the breakfast that "pundits have said that the era of chemistry has been replaced by the era of biology. At PerkinElmer, we believe that the future of preventive and personalized medicine is indeed very promising, but we also believe that analytical chemistry remains a strong field and that instrumentation will play an increasingly strong role in human health sciences."

PerkinElmer, like Thermo and many other companies, has been designing integrated instrument systems, in its case for disease diagnosis. Besides the main instrument in these systems, such as a tandem mass spectrometer, PerkinElmer includes screening reagents, informatics, and training. "You cannot afford to have any downtime" when these systems are used in medical facilities, "so service and support are essential in case problems do arise," Coggins said. "We believe we are providing a complete solution."

Also at the breakfast, JEOL President and Chief Operating Officer Yoshiyasu Harada noted that Pittcon's size is rivaled in Asia by the JAIMA Show. Sponsored by the Japan Analytical Instruments Manufacturers Association, the JAIMA Show is Japan's largest annual analytical instrument exposition and technical program. Nearly 22,000 visitors attended last year's show--about the same number of registrants at this year's Pittcon. The 2005 JAIMA Show, the 43rd in a series going back to 1962, will be held in late August and early September in Chiba, Japan.

Mildred S. Dresselhaus, professor of physics and electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave one of two plenary lectures at Pittcon 2005. Dresselhaus didn't focus specifically on analytical chemistry. Instead, she discussed the use of advanced materials, such as nanotechnology-based materials, to help provide sustainable energy for the rest of the 21st century and beyond. She noted that analytical instrumentation should play a key role in this effort.

The world currently uses about 14 terawatts of energy annually, and this is predicted to increase to 30 to 60 terawatts by 2050, Dresselhaus said. With world oil production expected to peak around 2037, alternative sources of energy, such as renewable hydrogen-based power, must be developed to meet the increasing need, she said.

Nanoscience can help by providing advanced materials with novel properties--such as highly selective nanoscale catalysts for ammonia synthesis, which is "one of the largest energy-consuming processes of the industrial world, commanding about 1% of the world's energy production," she said.

Electricity was not discovered by incremental improvements to the candle, Dresselhaus said, and imaginative leaps will likewise be needed to solve the energy challenge. "I'm optimistic we'll be able to solve the energy problem," she said. "Why? Because great advances are made in science all the time, and there are things we can do that we have not yet been thinking about."

PLENARY POTENTIARIES This year's plenaries were by Dresselhaus (left) on the role of advanced materials in energy generation and Cassatt on grants and the NIH Roadmap.
James C. Cassatt, director of the Division of Cell Biology & Biophysics of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, gave the second plenary lecture. "The last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th saw revolutions in chemistry and physics," Cassatt said, but "in the last half of the 20th century and the first half of the 21st, the revolution is in biology." Sustaining this biological revolution will require more than just the traditional hypothesis-driven approach to research, in which research groups apply for National Institutes of Health R01 grants--awards that support specific projects by individual investigators, he pointed out. Instead, "the new science is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and data intensive. It may not be hypothesis driven, and it may require mechanisms other than R01 grants."

One such alternative mechanism is the NIH Roadmap initiative, a set of collaborative programs that received $128 million in total funding in fiscal 2004 and for which annual funding is predicted to rise above $500 million by fiscal 2008 and 2009. The road map has been controversial in the chemistry community because some believe it drains funding that would otherwise go to R01 grants. Cassatt pointed out, however, that funding for the road map is less than 1% of the total NIH budget, leaving funding for individual-investigator grants basically intact.

Some road map programs involve analytical chemistry and instrumentation. An example is the program for single-molecule detection and manipulation. Advances that will be needed to support such projects include higher resolution optical and atomic force microscopes, fast-exchange microchambers, optical traps with improved force and spatial resolution, and faster time-resolved and time-gated charge-coupled devices. "This is where you come in," Cassatt said to analytical chemists at the session.

BREAKFAST CLUB Participants in this year's Centcom breakfast were (from left) Dekkers, Harada, Coggins, Baum, and Centcom President James A. Byrne.

NEW TECHNOLOGY is a highlight of each year's Pittcon exposition. Many instrument companies launch their most exciting new products at Pittcon. C&EN solicited recommendations from a small group of analytical chemistry professors on the most important new products at Pittcon.

Among the integrated systems that were much in evidence this year is Thermo Electron's LeadStream system, which the company calls "the first turn-key ADME/Tox [absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicology] solution on the market." The system is designed to accelerate early-stage drug assessment so that drug companies don't waste time on bad prospects. It includes a sample preparation module, an ADME/Tox assay unit, a liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) system for analysis and quantification, and software for data collection and reporting.

LeadStream exemplifies the trend toward "big systems designed to do really large and complex tasks in a highly automated manner, from experimental design right down to final report generation," said chemistry professor James W. Jorgenson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who received the 2005 Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award at Pittcon.

In chromatography, Jorgenson's area of specialization, ESA Biosciences' Corona Charged Aerosol Detector (CAD) is "a really intriguing concept in HPLC [high-performance LC] detection that will compete with evaporative light-scattering [ELS] detection," Jorgenson said. An ESA Biosciences press release noted that the Corona CAD "provides 10 times the sensitivity of ELS, a broad dynamic detection range over four orders of magnitude, more-consistent response factors independent of chemical structure, and full gradient capability, delivering for the first time to the HPLC market almost complete universality" in detector capability. "Will the Corona CAD be a significant improvement over ELS?" Jorgenson asked. "I haven't seen any definitive data to determine an answer to this, but it will be interesting to find out."

At Pittcon each year, media representatives vote on what they believe to be the most significant new products. This year, the Corona CAD joined a three-way tie for the second-place Pittcon Editors' Silver Award.

Another of the Silver Award winners was Dionex's ICS-3000 Reagent-Free Ion Chromatography (IC) system. According to company literature, innovations in the ICS-3000's modules "increase productivity, expand capabilities, and improve overall system performance up to 10-fold" relative to earlier IC systems. The Dionex ICS-2000, an earlier model of the Reagent-Free IC system, won the first-place Pittcon Editors' Gold Award in 2003.

Another development that Jorgenson noted is the unveiling by Selerity Technologies of a polydentate silica stationary phase that it said is the first silica-based column that can "withstand temperatures up to 200 ºC." Although various types of stationary phases can be used at elevated temperatures, "most HPLC chemists prefer the selectivity and higher efficiencies of silica-based columns," the company said. According to Jorgenson, interest in HPLC at highly elevated temperatures is indeed high. He noted that ZirChrom Separations is another company that plays in the arena of high-temperature separations, in its case using zirconia-based stationary phases. Selerity's product "looks like interesting competition for ZirChrom's," he said.

Agilent Technologies' introduction of the Agilent 5100 Automated Lab-on-a-Chip Platform for unattended DNA and protein analysis also elicited comment from Jorgenson. The system is designed to replace slower and less reproducible gel electrophoresis techniques for large-scale genomic and proteomic studies. According to the company, "The system automates the entire electrophoresis workflow of sample handling and analysis, lowering per-sample analysis time by a factor of 10" compared with gel electrophoresis. "This technology, like that of Agilent's partner, Caliper Life Sciences, represents the cutting edge in commercial development of microfluidics," Jorgenson said.

Agilent also introduced HPLC-Chip/MS, a microfluidics system for nanoflow LC/electrospray ionization MS (LC/ESI-MS). According to Agilent, the system "simplifies LC/MS, heightens separation power and sensitivity, and reduces required sample sizes by integrating multiple functionalities on a single microfluidics-based chip." The HPLC-Chip "looks very different from the traditional fused-silica capillary and stainless steel HPLC columns," according to Jorgenson. "Will it open microscale separations to the truly experimentally inept?" he asked, suggesting that it's possible but remains to be seen.

The HPLC-Chip/MS won the third-place Pittcon Editors' Bronze Award. Asked to comment on MS-based new products, assistant professor of chemistry Neil L. Kelleher of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, said that the HPLC-Chip/MS "appears to make LC/MS really easy" but would have to compete with Advion BioSciences' NanoMate HD and ESI Chip system, another miniaturized system for nanoflow LC/ESI-MS.

According to Kelleher, the dual ESI/MALDI (ESI/matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization) ion source for Bruker Daltonics' ultrOTOF-Q time-of-flight mass spectrometer was another significant introduction at this year's Pittcon. The dual source combines the company's new Apollo II ion-funnel ESI source with its existing ScoutMTP vacuum-MALDI ion source. The system "allows quick switching between ESI and MALDI," Kelleher said. "In other MS systems, it's necessary to physically remove one source and bolt on another to switch from ESI to MALDI or vice versa, which is a pain. The dual source also allows simultaneous introduction of ESI and MALDI ions," making it possible to internally calibrate TOF mass spectra to enhance mass accuracy.

Another hybrid instrument that Kelleher liked was Shimadzu Scientific Instruments' LCMS-IT-TOF. Its unique aspect is the coupling of an ion trap (IT) with a TOF analyzer, permitting multiple levels of fragmentation--which enhances mass accuracy and aids compound identification. The instrument is designed primarily for protein digest analysis, biomarker determination, and metabolite identification. "With this instrument, you'll also be able to do 'top-down' analysis--direct analysis of intact small proteins," Kelleher said. That can already be done with the Thermo Electron LTQ FT hybrid mass spectrometer, an IT-Fourier transform (IT-FT) hybrid, "but an IT-TOF instrument might be able to do it at a lower price point with only slightly reduced resolving power," he said. Shimadzu's LCMS-IT-TOF tied for the 2005 Pittcon Editors' Silver Award; Thermo's LTQ FT hybrid received the same honor in 2003.

The winner of the Pittcon Editors' Gold Award this year was also an MS product--JEOL's DART (Direct Analysis in Real Time), an atmospheric pressure ionization source for MS (Anal. Chem., published online March 12, http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ac050162j and C&EN, March 7, page 45). DART enables MS analysis of vapors, liquids, and surfaces in open air without sample preparation and without the need to use solvents, vacuum, radiation, or high voltage to induce ionization.

In the area of electrochemistry at Pittcon 2005, chemistry professor Stephen E. Creager of Clemson University, in South Carolina, said he "did not see anything that could be called an exciting new introduction. Mostly, companies are just continuing to make and support existing product lines. Many vendors that supply electrochemical instruments and that you might see at an Electrochemical Society meeting were absent from Pittcon." He noticed, however, increasing interest "in using electrochemistry for remote, field-deployed, and portable analysis and particularly for medical diagnostics."

In the James L. Waters Symposium on electrochemistry (see page 64), Peter T. Kissinger, founder and CEO of Bioanalytical Systems (BAS), said that more than 95% of the market in electroanalysis is in point-of-care glucose monitoring. "That is a big business, and it is my sense that the companies doing electrochemical glucose monitoring do not see Pittcon as an important meeting for them," Creager said. "Presumably, they have a presence at clinical analysis and medical diagnostics meetings instead."

Indeed, BAS was not a Pittcon 2005 exhibitor. Kissinger confirmed that "many of us prefer smaller, more 'pure' meetings focused on a need versus a tool." In addition, according to Creager, Yellow Springs Instruments, the home of another speaker in the Waters symposium--cofounder Hardy Trolander--"was also missing from the Pittcon exhibitor list, even though it also makes electrochemical analyzers."

In atomic spectroscopy, chemistry professor R. S. Houk of Iowa State University said he also "did not find any profoundly new instruments" at Pittcon 2005. He noted, however, that some exhibited products were newly marketed by particular companies--such as Thermo Electron's Finnigan Element GD, a combination of a glow-discharge ion source with a high-resolution mass spectrometer, and Horiba Jobin Yvon's Activa sequential-scanning inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectrometer with charge-coupled detector.

"The most interesting thing I saw was not really a new product but was cool nonetheless," Houk said. "Agilent recently reworked its collision cell ICP-MS devices to generate across-the-board attenuations of many different polyatomic ion interferents, including metal-oxide ions and metal-argon adducts, all under one set of operating conditions. A nonreactive collision gas and kinetic energy discrimination are used to remove the interfering polyatomic ions." This design facilitates the reliable ICP-MS determination of trace elements in unknown or variable matrices, he said.

Another notable recent development, Houk said, was the introduction by Cetac Technologies and New Wave Research of 193- and 213-nm laser ablation systems, in which a laser is used to vaporize samples for ICP analysis. "Compared with previous laser ablation devices that work at 266 nm, systems that use shorter wavelengths can generate sample particulates that are more representative of the specimen and that are atomized and ionized better in the ICP [spectrometer]," he said.

EXPANSIVE There were miles of aisles on Pittcon 2005's exposition floor.


IN MOLECULAR spectroscopy, chemistry professor Peter R. Griffiths of the University of Idaho, Moscow, saw a trend toward portable and fairly high-resolution Raman spectrometers at Pittcon 2005. These included FirstDefender by Ahura, a portable, 3-lb Raman spectrometer that identifies chemical weapons, explosives, toxic chemicals, narcotics, and other substances in about 15 seconds; Enwave Optronics' HRC-10, a portable, but larger, Raman spectrometer with a diode laser excitation source and a fiber-optic probe; and Raman Systems' R-2001, another portable, but larger, unit with a solid-state laser excitation source and remote-sampling capability via optical fibers.

"These instruments exemplify the miniaturization that is becoming so prevalent in all aspects of analytical chemistry," Griffiths said. "Mid-IR and near-IR spectrometers had already been miniaturized for field use or process monitoring, but Raman had lagged behind." The advent of portable Raman spectrometers means that all three major types of vibrational spectroscopy instruments are now suitable for use outside the lab.

"The Ahura instrument was particularly interesting," Griffiths said. "A 3-lb Raman spectrometer is pretty spectacular. You can pick it up, it's battery driven, and at the meeting, the exhibitor used it to identify my badge holder as PVC [polyvinyl chloride] in less than 10 seconds, even though the name card in the badge holder was quite fluorescent." (Fluorescence can interfere with Raman spectra.) "Measuring a Raman spectrum of something while it's still being worn is actually quite impressive."

At last year's Pittcon, Axsun Technologies introduced the NIR-APS, a miniaturized near-IR analyzer for process measurements based on superluminescent light-emitting diodes (SLEDs). "This year, the company introduced several products based on a broadly tunable near-IR laser with about 1,000 times the light output of the SLED-based products," Griffiths said. Also at Pittcon 2005, Polychromix introduced compact and lightweight DTS near-IR spectrometers with MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) spatial light modulators, InGaAs detectors, and no moving parts. "These companies have worked to reduce the size and cost of near-IR spectrometers without reducing performance," Griffiths pointed out. "It's really impressive."

Also of interest to Griffiths at Pittcon 2005 was the Encoded Photometric IR (EP-IR) technology by Aspectrics for use in analytical and process analyzers. In EP-IR, light from a broadband source is passed through a sample, through a grating, and onto a rotating encoder disk. The disk then reflects the grating-dispersed wavelengths to a detector, the signal from which is converted by FT into wavelength-intensity data. "It's an interesting hybrid between a grating spectrometer and an FT spectrometer," Griffiths said. "The concept is very novel."


Pittcon 2005 Takes Orlando By Storm
Meeting has lower attendance but an abundance of innovative instruments

Inside Instrumentation
New And Notable At Pittcon 2005

Taking The Analytical Lab On The Road
Advances in instruments and methods for on-site analysis lead to novel applications, faster results

Go With The Flow
Key challenges remain in microfluidics research an development even as applications advance

Taking Biomolecules For A Spin
Electron spin resonance answers questions that can't be answered with NMR or crystallography

From Heyrovsky To Glucose Sensing
Waters Symposium honors 80-year history of electroanalytical instrumentation

Probe The Interface
New tools for examining thin films and surfaces shed light on manufacturing procedures

Award Presentations Hightlight Pittcon 2005

  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2005


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