05 Jan 2007

The OU advances into the Fourth Dimension

Leco Corporation Pegasus  4D GCMS

Leco Corporation Pegasus 4D GCMS

The application of cutting-edge technology in science never stops at The Open University and the New Year has the University moving into the Fourth Dimension.

The OU’s Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) has just acquired a 4D GCxGC-ToFMS (Four Dimensional Gas Chromatograph X Gas Chromatograph -Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer) for its extra-terrestrial, meteorite research. It is an advanced instrument that could eventually lead to a role in the 2012 London Olympics. The Pegasus 4D GCMS, from the Leco Corporation, is one of only seven such instruments in the UK.

While the 4D GCMS can be applied to PSSRI’s space research, it also can be used to fully analyse complex mixtures of compounds to be found here on Earth. One such project is the detection and identification of trace quantities of drugs, or their metabolites, in humans and animals. Whereas gas chromatograph-mass spectrometers normally detect in two dimensions, the 4D GCMS offers just what it says on the label – four dimensions of separation, enabling labs to automatically detect and extract previously unseen compounds buried beneath others.

PSSRI’s Dr. Geraint Morgan says the main funding came from the OU’s Faculty of Science, PSSRI and Department of Chemistry.

Dr. Morgan has also secured funding from the Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and an analytical instrument supplier, Anatune Ltd., for a project that has the potential to develop a drug-testing programme that would ensure fair competition in the 2012 Olympics.

Working with Professor David Shuker (Department of Chemistry), the scientists at Anatune and also at HFL Ltd. (one of only two World Anti-Doping Agency accredited labs in the UK) they hope to develop novel methods that fully utilise the sensitivity and resolving power of the instrument.

The OU is currently in the process of searching for a suitable PhD candidate to work on the above project, due to start in January 2007.

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