How a laboratory dramatically increased sample throughput
The quickening pace of business caused one of Europe’s leading independent testing laboratories to seek an alternative to the standard solvent extraction/acid hydrolysis (Soxhlet) method for testing the amount of fat in a variety of foods. This contract laboratory, with numerous sites throughout the UK and Ireland, provides quality control analytical services to the food industry. By converting from the wet chemistry method to an MQC benchtop Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) analyzer for measuring fat content of foods, the lab reaped significant economic and environmental benefits.
Standard wet chemistry methods result in bottlenecks
Customers send foodstuff samples to this contract quality control laboratory, which has a specialty in fast turnaround service.
A typical request includes five or six measurements, including fat (oil) content. The Soxhlet method used for the oil measurement is slow, with measurements taking as long as 6 hours. This situation led to serious bottlenecks that were reducing throughput and affecting the lab’s ability to deliver its promised rapid analysis service. The process is also rather cumbersome, can be inaccurate, and requires highly skilled personnel. In addition, many of the hazardous chemicals used are becoming increasingly unacceptable according to international environmental standards.
|Technique||Analyses per hour at room temperature||Skills required|
|Solvent extraction||1||Highly skilled operator, usually a chemist|
|MQC/NMR||60 (1 per minute)||Non-skilld operator|
Key features of NMR
- Can be calibrated to cover a concentration range from 0.5 to 100 % fat
- Primary calibration can be produced using a single fat sample
- Requires infrequent recalibration
- Sample measurement time is short
- Minimal sample preparation necessary
- No solvents are required
- Excellent for bulk measurements
- Insensitive to sample granularity and product additives
- Non-destructive, facilitating repeatability measurements