IR spectroscopy on the move


Perkin Elmer\'s latest spectrometer, Spectrum Two, brings spectroscopy to the non-specialist

Infrared spectroscopy is one of the most powerful tools in the lab when it comes to characterising, identifying and quantifying a substance. One of the strengths of the technology is its ability to obtain spectra from a wide range of solids, liquids and gases, but it is by no means a universal solution. Its limitations include the inability to handle samples outside certain size or shape parameters, and the fact that spectrometers are large, heavy and require a significant level of skill to set up, operate and maintain to obtain optimum repeatable results.

These drawbacks have been addressed by Perkin Elmer with the development of Spectrum Two, a compact, robust and portable spectrometer that can be used straight out of the box without the need for high levels of expertise.

Consolidation in the global pharma market and the shift in manufacturing to Asia means that sales of spectrometers are growing strongly in India and China, as well as among smaller generics manufacturers. These markets are price sensitive, but as they are also knowledge-poor materials characterisation business leader Sharon Palmer believes that the slight premium commanded by the Spectrum Two is justified by the instrument’s advanced features. ‘I do believe that we can really demonstrate how we are going to save them money in the long run,’ she says.

For example, new software replaces menu-driven operation with icons-driven touchscreen technology, which guides the user through the set-up, speeds up the learning curve and eliminates mistakes. Instant results are obtainable without the need for indepth scientific knowledge, and 21 CFR part 11 technical compliance is built in, while automated component checks help to ensure regulatory compliance.

A range of dedicated Pharmacopoeia Compliance Resource Kits are available that are compatible with the seven major global pharmacopoeias. ‘It saves new entrants trawling through the entire pharmacopoeia,’ points out Palmer. ‘It is straightforward, eliminates the decision-making and is not open to interpretation. Also no translation is required, which is important for China and India.’

Another benefit of the spectrum Two is its portability. Light enough to be carried by one person of wheeled around in a purpose-built case, it can be easily transported to wherever testing needs to be carried out. It offers wireless connectivity and is therefore suitable for use in cleanrooms or in fume cupboards.

It can run for up to five hours from a small battery pack or operated from a 12v supply in a vehicle. This enables it to be used in areas where a mains power supply is unreliable or in mobile testing laboratories, opening the way for analysing raw materials at the point of supply or spot testing medicines in the market to detect substandard or counterfeit products.

The portability and compact size of the Spectrum Two are due in large part to the use of a solid state laser that has a low power requirement and will last for the lifetime of the instrument. The sensitive optical components are shielded from the effects of humidity by Perkin Elmer’s OpticsGuard technology, which reduces the frequency of the need to replace the desiccant from every six months to every five years in a normal laboratory environment, according to Palmer. It also means that the instrument can be switched off overnight without the risk of condensation damage – making a further contribution to reducing power needs.

In fact sustainability was a key factor in the design of the Spectrum Two, with the aim of reducing the overall carbon footprint factoring in the choice of materials used, the manufacturing methods, the packaging and the transportation. The circuitry is lead-free and aluminium was used for the cover rather than the conventional plastic because of its light weight. It is the smallest and lightest IR instrument Perkin Elmer has made to date and at the end of its life 75% of the Spectrum Two can be recycled.