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Techniques & Tools Technology, Environmental, Business, COVID-19, Spectroscopy

What’s New in Spectroscopy?

Test the water

In an effort to protect the aquatic environment, researchers from the University of British Columbia, Canada, set out to quantify levels of naphthenic acids (NAs) and phenol produced in oil sands process-affected water (OSPW). Using fluorescence spectroscopy, they were able to reliably detect key toxins in natural surface waters. Additional machine learning techniques – convolutional neural networks (CNN) – improved detection accuracy in the presence of confounding data from organic matter in natural waters, especially for phenol detection. According to the researchers, this study was the first to use CNNs to interpret fluorescence data.

A welcome sight

As part of the EU MOON (Multimodal Optical Diagnosis of Ocular and Neurodegenerative Disease) project, Medial University of Vienna researchers have designed a novel eye scanner, combining Raman spectroscopy and optical coherence tomography (OCT). This scanner not only provides a high-resolution image using OCT, but also adds molecular information to the visualization of internal eye structures, enabling spectroscopic and functional identification of tissue status. The authors described the eye as a “window to the brain,” highlighting that the technology could be used to investigate neurodegenerative disease.

The spectral war on drugs

Researchers from the Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil, coupled Raman spectroscopy with principal component analysis (PCA) to analyze samples of cocaine, crack – including their main adulterants and diluents – as well as tablets of ecstasy and alcoholic solutions contaminated with benzodiazepines. They were able to identify the illicit drugs even in the presence of contaminants. The PCA model verified trends in the contamination of most seized samples, indicated natural groupings of samples according to the main designer drugs present, and was able to distinguish pure alcohol from adulterated solutions. As such, the authors concluded that portable Raman paired with chemometrics tools is suitable in the screening of drugs of abuse.

Affair of the heart

Using NMR spectroscopy, Australian National Phenome Center researchers have been able to measure increased cardiovascular risk markers in COVID-19 and post-acute COVID-19 syndrome patients. In a press release, one of the authors, Jeremy Nicholson, noted that these markers are also of wider significance in assessing long term cardiovascular disease and can be easily measured using rapid NMR methods. “The high speed and reliability of this approach, with minimal sample preparation, lends itself to large scale clinical translation,” he said. The researchers noted their wish to continue their molecular phenomics research to better understand metabolic drivers of disease.

In other news...

Fiber optic probe-based Raman spectroscopy enables real-time molecular imaging, rapidly characterizing large tissue areas, making it highly suitable for clinical tissue-boundary demarcation. Link 

Bruker releases customizable, automated benchtop FT-NMR device for forensic narcotics analysis. Link

Kavli Institute adapts technology originally designed for space observation to develop biomedical imaging system, capturing images of multiple radionuclides in mice. Link

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About the Author
Margot Lespade

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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