With 40 years in analytical chemistry, Carlo Bicchi is perfectly placed to reflect on the past, present and future of separation science.
Carlo Bicchi | | Interview
What is the goal of your lab?
Our lab mainly works with volatile fractions of plant matrices of interest to the food, cosmetic and pharmaceuticals fields. This includes “sensomics” – the science of flavor and fragrance, including chemistry and sensory perception. We have two main lines of research: one dedicated to aroma and food, and one to natural products. The main technique we use is GC, and the core goal of our lab is to develop GC×GC, GC-MS and sample preparation methods to advance the study of natural products, and aroma and fragrance.
What were the key trends at this year’s symposia?
In GC×GC, the most important advances discussed included a better understanding of how the modulator works, exploring the possibilities of the second dimension, and improving data elaboration.
As I explained in my talk – “Comprehensive 2D-GC in the flavor and fragrance fields: simply an additional tool or a backbone of new strategies?” – new technologies fall into two categories. Some give you better or faster results, but don’t fundamentally change your strategy (tools). However, others give you an added value – results that you were unable to obtain with conventional techniques (backbone). In my talk, I argued that GC×GC is a backbone technique, since it allows better separations of biologically active volatiles that occur in very small amounts but may have powerful effects. This is a real step-change.
When it comes to bioanalysis, LC has also seen major advances in combination with mass spectrometry. It’s unbelievable how far mass spectrometry has evolved over the past 10 years or so, and how much extra information can now be obtained; for example, when studying complex mixtures.
The importance of sample preparation is often underestimated, even though it has always been – and remains – the bottleneck of modern technologies. The evolution of sample prep needs to be accelerated and here, automation is playing an important part. Automation has progressed rapidly, and there are exciting possibilities ahead in robotic technologies and miniaturization.
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