Monday, March 20, 2023

C&EN on elemental analysis

Via C&EN (article by Alla Katsnelson):

A few years ago, Saurabh Chitnis, a synthetic chemist at Dalhousie University, did some math that spurred a radical decision. He calculated what it was costing him to send lab-made compounds away for elemental analysis, a classic technique in which a compound is burned to determine its molecular composition. Then, fueled by that enormous sum, he sat down and wrote a grant to buy a $75,000 machine. Installed last September, it allows him and six other chemists in his department to do the analysis on-site.

“I’m not an analytical chemist who would typically have this instrument,” Chitnis says. “It’s very specialized and expensive, not just to purchase but also to maintain.” But his calculations showed it was worth it. “At one point, 12% of my research funding was going towards burning my chemistry.”

These days, chemists who need to conduct elemental analysis often have to send their compounds to companies, or to other universities that do elemental analysis for a fee. For each sample, these testing companies typically send back three numbers, without the raw data to back them, indicating what percentage of the burned sample consists of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

It seems to me elemental analysis is not well suited for confirmation of purity for many compounds! Hard to say what could take its place, though... 

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20