Monday, March 27, 2017

Exploding mass spec pumps seems bad

The TV 801 turbo pump, which may fail and eject fragments.
Credit: Sciex/C&EN
Also in this week's C&EN, an unusual story by Marc S. Reisch:
Scientific instrument maker Sciex has told owners of more than 2,000 mass spectrometers to immediately shut down the instruments because a catastrophic failure of turbo pumps manufactured by Agilent Technologies could “result in serious injury or death.” To date, Sciex says, no one has been injured. 
According to a safety notice dated March 13 for owners of API 4000, API 4000 Qtrap, and API 5000 model mass spectrometers, the rotors of the TV 801 turbo pump can suddenly fragment and be ejected at high speeds. The pumps are used to create a high negative pressure in the instrument’s vacuum chamber.
That seems... dangerous.

(There's probably quite the interesting thread about death-by-analytical-instrument. It seems to me that IRs aren't going to kill anyone, but death-by-NMR-asphyxiation seems pretty mundane/reasonable, although I suspect no one has actually died because of a surprise quench (am I wrong?) Death-by-X-ray-spectroscopy seems reasonable, but again, probably that's happened to no one yet. Death-by-mass-spec wouldn't be as ignominious as death by IR, I think. (Don't you think that's a little too morbid for Monday morning? -ed. Well, yeah, but it is Monday.) 

12 comments:

  1. over the years, I developed an extremely negative view of Agilent - their customer support is the worst - and I won't buy HPLC from them in the future because I can't deal with their inane and pushy "support". I used to like their analytical HPLCs - I bought quite a few for Scripps FL.

    The real reason why Agilent acquired Varian - then run it to the ground and finally shut it down - was that even though the Varian NMR business was not making money, the Varian division making mass spec turbo pumps was highly profitable. So now they managed to destroy this one too.



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    1. The vacuum pump business has gone through a rough decade. Oerlikon sold Leybold a couple years ago, and Edwards was bought by the same Swedish company. Alcatel's Adixen unit was sold to Pfeiffer in 2011. And of course, Varian was bought by Agilent way back in 2010. We're really down to just three companies worldwide. Is it any wonder quality is starting to slip at this point?

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    2. it is a relatively small market, so it is easy to conquer and plunder it. What bothers me though is that Agilent does such a lousy job at it, buying and ruining perfectly good companies. I guess they are the Comcast and Pfizer of the research instrument field

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    3. @ Milkshake.....I am not a fan of Agilent either, but I am a proud owner have 20 year old Shimadzu (10A series)-works like a charm just like Japanese car. Dealing with Shimadzu people can be a headache but if you maintain it with motherboard upgrade and such can last as long as you work!

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  2. Death by MRI has certainly happened. http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92745

    In an old job, one of the NMRs quenched over the weekend. The escaping cryogenics froze ambient water vapor into an icy plug around the vent port for the LN2 chamber. According to Bruker, this is a very bad thing: residual cryogenics could build up enough pressure to explode the NMR. We cleared it by blowing He onto the plug. Nothing like defusing an NMR bomb at 6 pm on a Monday. Who knew that exploding magnetic resonance instruments is a thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R7KsfosV-o .

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  3. There were lots of exploding centrifuge stories on In The Pipeline ("How Not To Do It: Ruining Stuff"). No fatalities, but I don't think anyone wanted to be in the same room with the centrifuges.

    Slightly OT, I wonder when pharma will run out of people to lay off.

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  4. There were a number of older x-ray crystallographers who developed cataracts from visually aligning x-ray tubes.

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  5. There were two people who died due to an NMR quench in Hokkaido that was not that long ago and is now being used as a cautionary tale about quenching and adequate ventilation as well as having oxygen meters on site, according to an NMR engineer that I know. Also, maybe someone in Russia a while ago?

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  6. Also, good thing we went with non pump dependent instruments from Agilent. Though, their IR broke. They shipped a replacement one, but keep trying to fix the old one and insist that we have to get the old one back and return the replacement. The problem is, the old one doesn't work. Finally they said they replaced almost all the parts and sent it back, but it still doesn't work... Now they are replacing the rest of the parts I guess. It's very frustrating. I wish they would stop bothering us and just let us keep the replacement.

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    1. I inherited a clunky Digilab FTIR microscope from the late 90s. I was amazed to see that despite being passed through Varian and then Agilent, the design didn't change at all in almost 20 years. Maybe Agilent can't actually find replacement parts because they're now all obsolete.

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  7. We had a "catastrophic failure" of a turbo pump in our group in grad school. Not a pretty sight in the lab, but fortunately, no one was in the lab at the time.

    Also, any group that uses lasers tends to have lots of stories passed down through the years that are some combination of real and urban legend. We didn't have any in our group, but according to lore, one of the other groups in the department had a death some years earlier that allegedly was due to operator error when someone was trying to refill the fluorine in an excimer laser.

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  8. Varian seems to be having major issues since or in spite of the Agilent takeover. We had 3 Agilent MS systems stop working due to pump failure, all within a year of installation! SCIEX should probably get someone else to make pumps for them. The newer Waters MS systems come with an Ebara (Japanese) dry pump, which seems pretty stable. No issues for 2 years+ and it's really compact and noiseless.Varian/Agilent seem to be getting lazy/careless.

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