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Techniques & Tools Gas Chromatography, Business

Hyper-Fast GC - and a New World Perspective

It is a shame that I cannot tell a truly heroic story about the development of our technology. Sometimes, start-up stories seem almost mythical: the inventors are smarter than everyone around them and fight their way through all the difficulties and bitter setbacks into a bright future! Maybe these stories really exist, but the development of HyperChrom is more of a longlasting effort – and with less drama!

When I told the first part of the flow field thermal gradient gas chromatography (FF-TG-GC) story – “Beginner’s Luck and Hyper-fast GC” – in The Analytical Scientist after Riva 2016, I chose luck and ignorance as leitmotifs (1). Luck has continued to play a big role; fortunately, ignorance is in slow decline! For this article, I was asked to write a retrospective of the last couple of years. Certainly, a lot has happened, but much more is still unclear and the future remains uncertain... So how can I draw any real conclusions before the end of our story?

Today, we have five years of technology development and a lot of experience behind us. And, although this is a short time compared with many colleagues in the field, we now better understand many of the complex processes involved in GC. To really test a new idea, it takes a great deal of stamina. When I look back at the chromatograms produced by our first experimental setups, I seriously wonder why we didn’t give up! The resolution was far from the published results of other researchers and commercial companies. Ultimately, however, curiosity got the better of us; the incentive to finally see the expected benefit of a temperature gradient was simply too strong. What’s more, our developmental journey has been consistently positive, with a constant flow of new improvements, ideas and technology – a wonderful way to work. Thus, we finally reached the preliminary peak in developing temperature gradient GC... and towards the end of 2018, we were awarded the top spot in The Analytical Scientist Innovation Awards!

During my doctorate, I studied the philosophy of science and epistemology, which has allowed me to observe my own modus operandi – and though that may sound a little strange, it teaches patience. It takes a great deal of time and experience to gain a real understanding of complex processes (and high-level GC is really complicated), but when one has reached this state – you might call it inner representation – interrelations and new solutions emerge intuitively and creativity can unfold much more effectively. Even scientists and engineers need philosophy!

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About the Author

Peter Boeker

Peter Boeker is a research associate at the Institute of Agricultural Engineering, University of Bonn, Germany.

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