How can High Performance Thin Layer Chromatography (HPTLC) help your company?

In Enterprise Ireland’s Institutes of Technology Capital Call 2019, Shannon ABC were successfully awarded a HPTLC suite to the value of €105,000. This suite is the first of its kind in Ireland available for commercial and research projects, and can be used for a range of applications:

  • Pharmaceutical – Quality Control; Content Uniformity Test; Identity and purity checks; stability tests
  • Herbals – Identification; Stability tests; Detection of adulteration; Assay of marker compounds
  • Clinical – Lipids; metabolism studies; drug screening; doping control
  • Food and Feed – Quality Control; Analysis of additives e.g. vitamins; pesticides; stability tests
  • Cosmetics – Identity of raw material; Analysis of preservatives, colouring materials etc; screening of illegal ingredients
  • Biotechnology – Characterization of enzymes (product profiles); Proteomics (coupling HPTLC to Mass Spectrometry); Process development and optimization;
  • Process monitoring – Cleaning validation,
  • Environment – Water; soil; residue analysis
  • Forensics – Molecule investigation; dyestuff analyses

What is Chromatography?

Chromatography is a scientific method used to separate different components in a mixture and to identify key compounds of interest present in the mixture. The process involves applying a very small sample of the mixture to a solid, porous layer (stationary phase) and passing a liquid solvent (mobile phase) through this stationary phase. The components in the sample will pass through the stationary phase at different rates, depending how much they like to stick to it or their preference to move with the mobile liquid phase.

Thin layer chromatography (TLC) uses a layer of silica poured onto a glass plate as a stationary phase. The mobile phase is placed in the bottom of a glass container and the glass plate, to which the test samples have been applied, is placed into this. As the mobile phase passes up through the glass plate, the compounds will adhere to the stationary phase at different rates leading to separation of components.

What is HPTLC?

High Performance Thin Layer Chromatography (HPTLC) gives much greater resolution and separation of components than normal TLC. It uses chromatographic stationary phases with excellent separation efficiency and employs state of the art instrumentation for all steps in the procedure. This includes precise sample application, standardized reproducible chromatogram development and software-controlled evaluation. HPTLC shows at a glance the similarities and differences between samples and references. Therefore, it can be used for analysis of raw materials & finished products, for the determination of purity (adulteration/fraud) and stability studies (shelf life). It can also be used for process development i.e. samples can be analysed at different stages of a process. By using reference standards, compounds can be quantified precisely.

HPTLC is a rapid cost-effective method in comparison to other separation methods and analysis of many samples in parallel takes typically less than an hour to run. Because the HPTLC plates are disposable, samples with biologically complex compounds (high matrix content) can be analysed. The equivalent samples in more sophisticated chromatography techniques (e.g. LCMS, HPLC and GCMS) would lead to column clogging. Considerably much less solvent is used for mobile phase in HPTLC as compared to other chromatography techniques making it more environmentally friendly and cost effective. As HPTLC has a non-destructive nature, analytes can be eluted after separation and identified using our existing equipment in laboratory e.g. Mass Spectrometry.

What does the equipment consist of?

The HPTLC suite is composed of a number of components.

  1. Sample Applicator – Application of sample to stationary phase i.e. TLC/HPTLC plate
  2. Development Chamber – Separation of components
  3. Derivatizer set and Plate heater – Derivatization: Chemical spraying of plate to detect compounds not visible under white/UV light
  4. Documentation System and TLC Scanner – Visualization/Evaluation of TLC/HPTLC plate
  5. Band cutting instrument which can be connected to existing Mass Spectrometers – MS Analysis (optional): Bands can be cut from TLC/HPTLC plate and identified on our existing Mass Spectrometers
  6. Software for operation of equipment and analysis – Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Results

If you would like more information on this system, and how it may be of help for your company, please contact Dr Catherine Collins, Business Development Scientist (Catherine.Collins@lit.ie) or Dr Tim Yeomans, Centre Manager (tim.yeomans@staff.ittralee.ie).


TSSG researchers integrate COVID-19 technology with society

Technology has played a critical role in the society of today as many people transition to remote working, remote schooling, remote shopping and remote socialising. While people have quickly adapted to this new way of life with little hesitation there is growing uncertainty of when society will return to ‘normal’. TSSG researchers have asked the questions: What is the new normal? Can technology play a role in ‘living’ with the virus? To answer these questions, they have applied their diverse expertise in an attempt to answer what is currently perceived as unanswerable; when can we visit family and friends again?

Contact Quotas to prevent COVID-19

Social-distancing is the term of 2020 and is the current advise enforced on almost every global citizen prevent the spread of COVID-19. This measure will only slow the spread of the virus as it is likely we will be living with it for the foreseeable future. The advice is to stay 2metres apart from anyone outside of your household or, if necessary, only talk to someone for 15minutes to help reduce the spread. However, if you speak to someone on the street for 5 minutes you still can spread the virus just the chances of it are lower.

 Maintaining contact quotas to prevent spreading of COVID-19.

Researchers has asked the question; how much personal contact can one have a day and not get infected? The simple answer is 0 or close to it which is the number the current government restrictions strives to achieve. Any number above 0 implies a certain level of risk for the individual to spread the disease. Many people use quotas to track calorie intake and weight-loss which is the approach TSSG and the American International University-Bangladesh have taken to help people understand and monitor their contact quota.

So, how hard is it estimate the social quota and can HSE do it? In short, very. As shown in the figure above, a possible solution will incorporate a number of components. In order for the HSE to obtain the data they need to appropriate a suitable quota. To identify this quota every member of the public would be encouraged to share their contact history anonymously and safely. In other words, the HSE will know how many people one citizen has been in contact with and names and personal information is unnecessary therefore privacy is ensured. This data can then be applied to one of the epidemiological (control of infection diseases) platforms to evaluate the possible impact of various quotas and calculate the risk of further spread of COVID-19. Based on the risk values, the HSE will then be able to select the lowest quota figure and communicate it to the public via various platforms including the Contact Tracing App.

Researchers: Dr. Stepan Ivanov (TSSG), Sirajum Munir Fahim (American International University-Bangladesh).


Safe-To-Work: Blockchain-based Certification of Compliance with Public Health Policies

While the current stay-at-home policy helps to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the impact of the policy is anticipated to be both significant and long-lasting. Before the peak of the pandemic, a blanket stay-at-home solution is justifiable, but the policy needs to change when Ireland enters the maintenance phase.

To mitigate the risk of a second wave of the pandemic, the return of workers will need to be carried out gradually and controlled by the Public Health Authorities. The returning workers will be required to adhere to social distancing which is difficult to police. The compliance can be monitored via various social distancing apps coupled with the use of advanced data analytics and mathematical modelling. However, none of the apps currently available provide a mechanism for the authorities to: (1) enable safe return of workers, and (2) encourage compliance with social distancing by the returning individuals.

Block-chain Safe-to-Work certification for people returning to work.

This project aims to develop a Blockchain Safe-to-Work certification solution to help the authorities perform both tasks. An individual may be issued a Safe-To-Work certificate confirming the safety of their temporary return. The certificate will be issued on the basis of their recent contact history and their compliance with distancing advice from Public Health Authorities. If there is evidence of recovery from the virus, a certificate may be issued by a qualified medical practitioner after certain tests have been done. The certificates will enable an organisation to make a judgment on whether the individual can return to their place of work.

Researchers: Dr. Stepan Ivanov (TSSG), Dr. Brendan Jennings (TSSG), Miguel Ponce de Leon (TSSG), Dr. Bernard Butler (TSSG), Dr. Steven Davy (TSSG).


Ensuring Social distancing through Wearables

Researchers are working towards an inconspicuous wearable solution to track and assess the social distancing measures by raising awareness of how people implement these guidelines within their community and work environments. TSSG is actively developing a new and innovative wearable device that can help citizens to monitor the effectiveness of their social distancing efforts and to be more informed on their practice of social distancing in real time. This wearable device solution has the potential to greatly impact and provide benefits for multiple user groups such as

1. Manufacturing / industry organisations: The device will help the workforce and health and safety teamto monitor employee adoption of social distancing best practice and identify the need for additional measure to be implemented/

2. Services such as hospitality and retail: The device will be capable of monitoring the behaviour of their staff and stimulate compliance amongst the customers.

3. Healthcare facilities such as care homes, hospitals, GP practices: The device will support routine social distance compliance monitoring as well as helping visitors to maintain a safe distance from vulnerable individuals in such environments.

4. Everyday citizen engagement (adults, kids, elderly): The device will provide these groups the opportunity to gain an insight and a higher level of awareness around their social distancing practices and areas for improvement.

Wearable electronic device to monitor social distancing.

Researchers: Yahya Almardeny (TSSG), Frances Cleary (TSSG), Dr. Stepan Ivanov (TSSG), Dr. Brendan Jennings (TSSG), Dr. Sasitharan Balasubramaniam (TSSG).

This post was originally published on the TSSG website

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IMaR Technology Gateway Offer Technology Advice to Keep Your Business Trading

Kerry businesses struggling to adapt to the challenges presented by Covid-19 can now avail of free technology consultations from the IMaR Technology Gateway at IT Tralee.

With shutdowns and social distancing with us for the foreseeable future, many businesses are looking at ways to continue operating while adhering to HSE guidelines. New technology may be the answer; but the question is, where to start?

For over 10 years, the IMaR Research Centre at IT Tralee has been working for companies in the areas of software, electronics, computing platforms, artificial intelligence, sensors and control systems, and the Technology Gateway’s role is to make these skills accessible to business and companies.

IMaR are now offering 30 minute technology consultation sessions free to Tralee and Kerry businesses to go through the issues they may be having and help them find possible solutions. This could include expert advice on platforms to assist with online trading options, remote working, new ways of delivering training or expert content to customers, technology to remotely monitor facilities, control machines  or achieve more with contactless interactions – not only payments, but door opening, machine on/off, data entry, personnel IDs and much more.

IMaR can also help with advice on the state funding and grants available to businesses to bring in new technologies or to develop their own new technology products.

Dr Daniel Riordan of IMaR says, “Many businesses have already been in contact about what technology they could bring in to address problems they are having with remote working, engaging with clients online or adhering to HSE social distancing guidelines while continuing to do business. Some we have been able to help by pointing them to the correct off-the-shelf technology or web-service, others have been advised on what technology or software is needed as a solution for their business and directed towards a suitable provider or consultant and others have engaged with us in the research and development of new products and services better suited to the current business climate.”

Book your free session with the IMaR Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway team by emailing imar@ittralee.ie

For further information on IMaR check out their website or follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn



IMaR develop a new Online Level 8 Industry 4.0 & Industrial Internet of Things programme

IMaR Technology Gateway based in Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT) provides research, development and bespoke training expertise in electronic and mechanical hardware, software, IoT and data analytics, working with companies in the manufacturing, agriculture and process sectors.

Following substantial interest and feedback from our industry partners and the South-West Regional Skills Forum, IMaR, working with the academic staff in the School of STEM, IT Tralee, recently developed an Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Level 8 programme to assist our manufacturing sector clients to up-skill their workforce. The course also gives manufacturing sector employees the chance to gain a qualification in this advancing area. An additional benefit is the “blended learning” delivery, with all evening lectures and tutorials being offered online, with hands-on practical sessions delivered over two to three days per semester at IT Tralee. By gaining approval for the course under the HEA Springboard+ program, 90% of course costs are government funded.

The ever increasing prominence and relevance of IIoT within industry only serves to highlight the growing need for a programme such as this. IIoT aims to assist manufacturers navigate current challenges, allow for greater machine connectivity, improved operational process insight, greater product traceability and the ability to react to changes in the manufacturing process quicker and more efficiently. The modules on this new programme reflect industry’s current needs, address technologies in advanced manufacturing and provide their staff with the broad range of skills required. The programme modules are:

  • Instrumentation & Interfacing
  • Industrial Internet of Things: Applications
  • Industrial Networks, Distributed Systems & Cloud Computing
  • Industry 4.0: Cyber Physical Systems
  • Machine Learning/Data for Internet of Things

Fully accredited by IT Tralee, the Level 8 part-time programme in Industry 4.0 & Industrial Internet of Things is also available via the Springboard initiative and recently commenced in ITT with 20 registered students. On finishing, students will gain a Level 8 Certificate Award (Special Purpose). The programme also has a progression route to other Level 8 degree programs such as the degree in Manufacturing Engineering.

Of the importance of this new programme to industry, IMaR Technology Gateway Manager Daniel Riordan said:

“Having been approached about providing IIoT training to manufacturing staff by many of our industry partners, and with a history of providing bespoke training, we saw the opportunity to create a certified training course in the area of IIoT. The course is designed to prepare engineering staff for advancements in the manufacturing sector towards the introduction of Industry 4.0, leading to more efficient, agile factories producing higher quality products.”

For further information on the new Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) programme please see here. You can also find out more about IMaR or follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn

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CAPPA Technology Gateway offers free online consultations

The current COVID-19 pandemic has seen the business community suffer unique and disruptive challenges causing much instability and uncertainty for the future. To counter this and provide additional support, the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways Network has remained open, with our teams working remotely, to provide assistance to our client companies.

CAPPA Technology Gateway, based in Cork Institute of Technology is one such example. The team delivers photonic solutions for industry in the Pharmaceutical, Food & Beverage and Medical Device sectors and are currently communicating with new and existing clients through email, phone and teleconferencing.

In these unprecedented times, the ability to provide support to the business community is extremely important to the Network. Liam Lewis, CAPPA Technology Gateway Manager says ‘CAPPA are delighted to be able to assist our industry partners in any way possible. It’s important to maintain focus on planned projects and operations and despite the current situation there are many opportunities to progress R&D/core business activities and be ready to return to normal operation as soon as possible’.

In addition to providing businesses with a wide range of RD&I funding solutions the CAPPA team are also available to discuss research projects, proposals, funding and product solutions. Including assistance with report writing and proposals for government and European funding.

CAPPA are also offering a free one-hour online consultation to any business who would like to discuss potential ideas for projects. If you wish to speak to a member of the CAPPA team, email cappa@cit.ie and a team member will contact you as soon as possible.

You can learn more about CAPPA here and follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest updates.


CAPPA Receives over €550,000 in Commercialisation Funding from Enterprise Ireland

The Centre for Advanced Photonics and Process Analysis (CAPPA) is delighted to announce that it recently received over €550,000 worth of funding for two projects, PIXCAN and Photocell, through the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund program. When asked about receiving the funding, centre manager Dr Liam Lewis said, “We are delighted to have received this funding for the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund and are looking forward to beginning work on these new projects.”

The aim of the Enterprise Ireland commercialisation fund programme is to improve the competitiveness of the Irish economy through the creation of technology-based start – up companies and the transfer of innovations developed in Higher Education Institutes and Research Performing Organisations to industry in Ireland. The programme will fund the development of innovations at all stages of the commercial pipeline to the point where they can be commercialised as new products, services and companies. Proposals are funding from €80,000 to €350,000 from all disciplines in the field of science and engineering.

PhotoCell, funded in two stages up to €349,000, will create new, a robust, low – cost technology for selective marking of somatic cells in raw milk. Somatic cell count (SCC) is indicative of animal health and is a deciding factor on further processing or disposal of the batch. The new platform will address common problems with existing methods of SCC and be based on surface – functional fluorescence nanodiamonds and intelligent image analysis. SCC is a key indicator for early detection of mastitis, one of the costliest diseases in dairy cattle. The standard biomarkers such as Propidium lodide or Ethidium Bromide that are commonly used for flow cytometry, suffer from the problem of photobleaching, photoblinking, cytotoxicity and limited shelf lifetime. PhotoCell will employ functionalized fluorescent nanodiamonds (f – FNDs), which are not cytotoxic. In contrast to organic dyes, f – FNDs are non – photobleachable even under continuous, long – term and high power illumination, and they are structurally stable. The number of somatic cells will be counted with high precision by means of optical analysis of raw milk samples. PhotoCell will be an optical based platform, which will facilitate high accuracy field-testing of SCC. The technology will be based on low – cost hardware such as Raspberry Pi and/ or iOS and Android smartphones.

PIXCAN’s goal is to build a wafer scale-testing platform for these photonic integrated circuits based on Resonant Scattering Spectroscopy (RSS) and received €209,000. Most of the today’s internet services require huge data centre support. Within the data centers, data is exchanged between the server racks through optical fibers. The current optical transceivers are based on Mach-Zehnder interferometers, which have unsustainable-huge power consumption and large footprint. One of the main bottlenecks to bring this advanced technology into the market is the lack of wafer scale testing techniques, due to the non-light emitting nature of these resonators. This requires integration of sophisticated optical alignment algorithms, machine learning based device recognition on wafers, combined with high speed, high precision 3D moving platform. A proof-of-concept RSS set-up has been built at CAPPA and found to have the capability to reach the throughput required for wafer scale testing of devices. The proposed RSS based wafer scale testing technology is novel and requires low-maintenance and low-consumables compared to the existing and emerging technologies in the market, thus creating a great commercial opportunity. The primary benefit from this project for the Irish economy will be the formation of a new start-up company by providing innovative RSS Q-test systems services to a growing silicon photonics global market. PIXCAN aims to become a High-Potential Start-Up and create knowledge-based sustainable jobs in Ireland.

You can learn more about the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Funding, here and about the different projects CAPPA is currently working on here.

This post was originally published on the CAPPA website

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IT Sligo & PEM Gateway provide vital assistance in COVID-19 fight

Researchers and engineers from the Institute of Technology Sligo are using their knowledge, expertise and facilities to assist in the current fight against COVID-19. The institute’s  response was immediate when a call came from Sligo University Hospital (SUH) to provide assistance.

As an initial response the Institute set to work collecting PPE from across the various departments for delivery to frontline staff in SUH. A team from within the School of Engineering and Design and PEM Technology Gateway used 3D printed technology to design and produce essential face shields as well as working on a prototype emergency ventilator which is now close to production stage. The team hope to share the design with other Technology Gateways to benefit others around the country. SUH are currently also in need of sterilisation units and CPAP masks, these are being worked on at the moment.

With the current worldwide shortage of certain elements of the COVID-19 test. The institute set to work sourcing several components required, with the result being that two key elements of the test are now created onsite.

 The efforts of IT Sligo staff engaged in the fight against COVID-19 was recently featured on the RTE Six One News, you can view the segment here.

Update: The PPE face shield production line is now fully operational with shifts manned by volunteers from across the Institute. Supplying front line staff in the HSE, Ambulance Service and An Garda Síochána in the North West


Enterprise Ireland Covid-19 Funding and Supports

Following the outbreak of the global pandemic Covid-19 on our shores, many Irish business have experienced disruption, shock and future uncertainty. To assist with this unprecedented event, Enterprise Ireland has recently launched a Covid-19 web resource. Providing Irish business with practical advice and guidance on the Covid-19 response, information on available Government funding and supports and the latest news and insights.

There is no doubt this is an extremely difficult period for the business community. To assist with the challenges ahead a range of new Covid-19 funding supports has been put in place by the Government of Ireland. Through Enterprise Ireland, Irish business can now avail of a range of funding supports to help alleviate the impact of Covid-19. Further information on all Covid-19 supports can be found here on the Enterprise Ireland website.

 The Enterprise Ireland Business Response Supports include:

As well as a range of other supports such as:

  • Lean Business Continuity Voucher
  • Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme
  • Covid-19 Act on Supports
  • Key Manager Grant
  • Business Process Improvement Grant
  • Rapid Response Research and Innovation Funding
  • eiLearn Online Learning platform

Further information on these Covid-19 supports can be found here

Enterprise Ireland also has a range of Innovation, Diversification and competitiveness supports available. For more information on these supports companies should contact their Development Advisor.



Technology Gateway statement on COVID-19

In line with the latest guidance from the Government of Ireland regarding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID 19), Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway centres, situated in 9 Institutes of Technology and 1 Technological University are currently closed in some cases to staff and the public.

The Technology Gateway Network is however still open for business and in line with social distancing practices our teams throughout the country continue to provide a service to Irish industry via remote working. Communicating with clients through email, phone and teleconferencing.

Our teams are currently contacting all clients with ongoing projects but should you require further information, please get in touch with your Technology Gateway Manager directly by phone or email. Contact details can be found here.

Technology Gateways will continue to provide the business community with a wide range of innovation supports and funding. For general information or new client enquiries please contact the Network office in Dublin or your regional Technology Gateway Manager. We will respond to your enquiry as quickly as possible.

For the latest updates please see www.technologygateway.ie or follow us on Twitter



CAPPA Expands Service Offering with Addition of New Confocal Raman Microscope

As part of the Enterprise Ireland Capital Equipment call CAPPA Technology Gateway recently purchased a new Raman, Witec Alpha R microscope. The new microscope is an advanced version, Raman microscope having excitation wavelengths in the visible (633 nm) and Near Infrared (830 nm). CAPPA currently posses a Horiba Raman microscope with wavelengths of 532 nm and 785 nm, the addition of the new systems adds to the excitation wavelengths and allows CAPPA to preform Raman spectroscopy over a significant portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The new system will provide a modernized offering to CAPPA’s industry partners and allow for the development of additional fundamental research.

Raman spectroscopy is being successfully applied to the analysis of a wide range of materials and systems. Some of the key areas are life sciences, materials science, chemical sciences, earth sciences and analytical sciences. It is a widely used technique applicable in the study of Carbons, Nanomaterials, Forensics, Life Sciences, Minerals, Geology and Gems, Pharmaceuticals and Polymers.

Key features of the new Raman microscopes are:

  • Confocal Raman Imaging with unprecedented performance in speed, sensitivity, and resolution
  • Hyperspectral image generation with the information of a complete Raman spectrum at every image pixel
  • Excellent lateral resolution
  • Outstanding depth resolution ideally suited for 3D image generation and depth profiles
  • Ultra – fast Raman imaging option with under one millisecond integration time per spectrum
  • Ultra – high throughput spectroscopic system for highest sensitivity and best performance in spectral resolution
  • Non – destructive imaging technique: no staining or fixation of the sample required

The Witec Alpha R correlative microscopy system is a unique integration of Raman with additional modal functionality such as inverted SNOM (Scanning Near – Field Optical Microscopy) sampling mode, ability to add an AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy) and more, all on one integrated and correlated imaging microscope. It is often referred to as the “gold standard” in Raman imaging for speed and resolution. The new Raman can be used for applications such as chemical/polymer detection and identification, materials testing and analysis, drug discovery, real – time reaction monitoring, pharmaceutical testing of tablets, powders and liquids, food quality control and safety, cleaning validation and toxicity testing of chemicals.

To find out more about CAPPA, check out their page and follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest news and events.

This post was originally published on the CAPPA website