Low-Cost Analytical Techniques

These days, with budgets cut and credit tight, any opportunity to get a deal needs serious consideration. So I was very interested when I was contacted by a company called Common Sense Analytical.

The way their service works is that they send their team of highly trained analyzers to your place of business and they will take care of all the compound characterization, purity analysis and impurity identification for you, using a battery of proprietary tests they developed in-house. I asked Ian Havenuone, head of business development, to describe some of their services to me.

“The real secret behind this business model is our people,” he explained. “They are experts, constantly undergoing new training techniques and retraining to ensure they are at the top of their performance.

“The first technique we developed is primarily used to detect very low levels of the particular types of impurity that, well, show up in this test. It really is very sensitive, although not unlike UV detection on a non-UV sensitive substance, outside its domain, it tends to be rather weak. The analyzer takes a sample from the volatile components of the desired test compound and feeds it into the olfactroscope. A few minutes is all it takes, though it can be quite intense and sometimes an analyzer will have to go and get a breath of air after analysis is complete.

“However, we did find it rather limited. Much more popular is the technique we call retinal spectrocopy. Basically, the effect of light, primarily visible band radiation, on the sample can give a lot of information about the chemical make-up of the substance, including identification, purity and isomeric ratio. Of course, one needs a great deal of training in the interpretation of the data for this technique to be effective. We provide a wealth of supporting documentation for QA and QC purposes.

“Another very popular technique is our reaction monitoring procedure, known as SCAR, which stands for Sonic Collision And Release. There are several methods for following ongoing processes, but most require you to open the reaction, potentially exposing the chemicals to air, which may be hazardous or counter-productive. A key but little known finding that we made is that the collision between molecules as they react causes a minute vibrational pattern which can be detected using our equipment. A reaction that is done will no longer give these collisions and you can follow its progress without even opening the reaction vessel.”

“Amazing. How about for drug development labs? Anything you do there?”

“We do have a quality check for formulations, which we call Digital Monitoring. It rolls out the formulated compound and checks for inconsistencies and proper mixing, as well as confirming the proper ratios of ingredients. We did had a few issues due to variations in glove quality, but we have those resolved now and the technique is becoming very successful.”

“Does any other company use these methodologies?”

“Well, it is difficult for anyone not immersed in our corporate culture to become proficient with these methods. But we have had success in a very specific training method for certain areas of law enforcement, such that they can detect the identity and purity of seized drug shipments, just by tasting a small sample. This has worked well for this specific application. Our attempts to incorporate this into wider use as part of our analytic portfolio has been problematic, due to our staff succumbing to the effect of toxic components. So we generally don’t offer that service unless the customer gives some kind of guarantee or has an ambulance standing by.”

“Well thanks again for talking with us, Ian.”

“My pleasure.”

And I hope you, dear reader, got a good sense of the usefulness of these amazing techniques.


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