Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has received a 2012 Excellence in Technology Transfer award for technology being used commercially that improves research sample analysis.
The technology developed at the Department of Energy national lab in Richland provides a new way to manufacture a tiny glass tube, called an emitter, that's used in electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. The technology is being used by Michrom Bioresources of Auburn, Calif.
Traditionally, the tapered ends of emitters, which have openings the width of a horse hair, are made by heating a glass capillary and pulling until the end forms a fine tip. But the process can make the interior of the tip so narrow that particles in the emitter become stuck.
PNNL's process forms the taper end by etching capillary tubes in a hydrofluoric acid solution, a more consistent and reliable manufacturing method. It produces an emitter that can spray aerosols at extremely low, controlled rates without clogging, according to PNNL.
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That allows more of the sample to be analyzed by the mass spectrometer, which helps scientists learn more about the molecules they study.
The improved emitters could advance research related to human health, the environment, petrochemicals and drug development, according to PNNL.
Michrom Bioresources has been selling the new emitters since October 2010. Since then, it has been acquired by Bruker Corp., which could expand opportunities for the technology's use.
The latest Excellence in Technology Transfer award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium brings PNNL's total to 75 since the program began in 1984. That's more than any other federal lab.
The latest award will be presented May 3 at the consortium's annual meeting in Pittsburgh, Penn.