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Markes’ equipment gets moving in EPA’s air-monitoring field-trials

Wednesday, 25 February 2015 at 3:29:PM

In the wake of the exciting news that Markes’ thermal desorption equipment sailed through the lab-trial stage of the US EPA’s assessment of air monitoring equipment, we’re now getting ready for the field-trial stage, scheduled to begin in earnest in May.

This is all being run on behalf of the EPA by RTI International – who have a lot of experience in conducting research for government organizations. During the lab trials, it was great to visit their laboratories at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and see the various systems being trialled. These guys have had to work hard to whittle down the original list of 40 submissions to just eight, and we were impressed with their level of knowledge, professionalism, and enthusiasm for what they were doing.

As a highly rigorous comparison of air monitoring equipment from a number of manufacturers, many folks in the analytical chemistry sphere will be eagerly anticipating the final report from RTI, which will likely appear in the first half of 2016. It’s certainly a big deal for all of us at Markes, and one we’ve spent a considerable amount of time on since we made the initial application way back in June 2013.

Bar chart

This is not just because of the potential for a large number of systems to be installed as part of the PAMS program, but because the high regard in which the EPA is held means that success would be a pretty strong endorsement of the successful system.

The competition is tough of course, but we reckon we’re in with a good chance, as our UNITY-Air Server equipment features in two out of the top three systems shortlisted for the field trials. The report itself is not exactly bedtime reading, but to summarise, an Agilent/Markes TD–GC–FID system (referred to as ‘Vendor 1’) came top, with an overall rating of 33, while a Thermo/Markes TD–GC–MS system (‘Vendor 3’) came in second place, with a rating of 28.5. For comparison, four of the eight systems ranked below 17 – see the bar-chart below. See also this blog post from our partners at ThermoScientific.

GraphWe were particularly pleased that we had the best repeatability amongst all the systems for acetylene – see the image below. This is one of the most challenging compounds in the PAMS mix, and one that requires a well-optimised analytical setup to get good results with.

The top three systems all went through automatically to the next stage, while three others are also being included because the manufacturers were willing to provide RTI with systems free of charge. At the moment, we’re getting ready to help RTI get our systems up and running in the mobile laboratory, and are looking forward to see how the trials pan out.

The trials themselves going to be conducted at four locations during the height of the so-called ‘ozone season’ from May through October. Each trial will last 30 days, and at the time of writing, they are planned to take place at locations in Louisiana, New York and California, as well as at RTI’s labs in North Carolina. Watch this space to see how we get on!

Nicola Watson

Dr Nicola WatsonNicola Watson is the TD technical lead on the PAMS project and is Markes’ TD co-ordinator for both the systems entered. She’s currently on secondment in Markes’ USA headquarters in Cincinnati, heading up the Sales Support team, which provides TD applications and technical support for all Markes’ USA-based customers and distributors.

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