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Out Here in the Field

Looking at the latest portable offerings in soil and water testing, plant health and identification, sample management, and testing of raw materials, components, and finished products.

Rachel Muenz

Rachel Muenz, managing editor for G2 Intelligence, can be reached at

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Recent Portable Instrument Releases Benefit Those in Manufacturing, Environmental Testing, and Clinical Markets

As usual, the majority of recent field instrument releases since we covered this topic last year will benefit the environmental testing and manufacturing fields. However, there were also several releases that will help those in the clinical market. Specifically, the latest portable offerings will help those involved in soil and water testing, plant health and identification, sample management, and testing of raw materials, components, and finished products.

Released early last March, SPECTRO Analytical Instruments’ family of handheld energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) spectrometers will help those doing spectrochemical testing, either in the plant or in the field. The instruments deliver “repeatable, laboratory-quality results in a matter of seconds” and feature a fatigue-free design. The new spectrometers come in three versions: the xSORT Alloy, for affordable metals identification; the xSORT AlloyPlus, for advanced metals analysis; and the xSORT NonAlloy that includes a silicon drift detector, for fast element screening. In June, the company released its portable SPECTROSCOUT X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, bringing lab-grade quality control testing and elemental composition monitoring to at-line analysis. There’s also a version for testing offsite or in the field.

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Another option released in early March 2015 is Oxford Instruments’ X-MET8000CG handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer for the consumer goods industry. The new instrument allows users to quickly and easily test materials using a large screen and simple interface.

“Our aim was to enable manufacturing companies, retailers, and importers alike to readily establish reasonable testing programs (RTPs), consolidate operational costs and controls, and avoid duplication of effort or activity,” said Oxford Instruments product manager Christelle Petiot. “The X-MET8000CG provides the ideal means to implement these compliance screening processes, not only through the speed, convenience, and accuracy of the analysis, but also [through] the X-MET’s powerful data management, with up to 100,000 results including spectra and camera images being stored, plus the flexible report-building functions—requiring no additional software on a PC.”

Another new tool for the pure materials testing market is B&W Tek’s NanoLIBS LIBS analyzer, shown at Pittcon this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The instrument features a matchbox-sized advanced microLIBS laser with a high repetition rate and a compact spectrometer for “real-time spectroscopy.” Customization options are also available. For those looking for handheld Raman options for raw materials verification, Bruker’s BRAVO handheld Raman spectrometer is another recent release featured at Pittcon 2016. It’s quick with a straightforward workflow and supports 17 different languages.

SPECTRO Analytical Instruments’ xSORT can be used either in the plant or in the field. Oxford Instruments’ X-MET8000CG handheld XRF analyzer for the consumer goods industry. B&W Tek’s NanoLIBS LIBS analyzer for the pure materials testing market. OMEGA’s HHC200 Series of portable rugged environmental meters.

Air, water, and earth

As for the environmental side, OMEGA recently launched its HHC200 Series of portable rugged environmental meters for temperature, pressure, RPM/ light intensity, airflow, humidity, dew point, and wet bulb measurement. For those concerned with testing pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), conductivity, total dissolved solids (TDS), and salinity, Hanna Instruments’ new edge meters—including the HI2002 pH/ORP, HI2003 EC/TDS/Salinity, and HI2004 DO—are thin and lightweight and can be used both as portable and benchtop meters.

Other relatively recent options for this field include offerings from Xylem Analytics’ YSI brand of handheld meters. The Pro1020 measures dissolved oxygen and temperature along with either pH or ORP (redox) and is EPA-approved for wastewater and drinking water compliance reporting. Xylem’s YSI Pro10 handheld provides the same abilities, minus dissolved oxygen measurements, for those who are only worried about pH or ORP. Another fairly recent addition to the YSI brand is its EcoSense ODO200 handheld, which as the name suggests, is an optical-based dissolved oxygen meter for DO sampling. Like the other instruments, it also offers one-hand operation and is simple to use.

Related Article: Latest in Field Instruments: Applications for Water Testing

In terms of field-portable GCs, Falcon Analytical recently launched the GS model of its CALIDUS micro gas chromatograph, which can be used both in the lab and in the field for a variety of environmental and industrial applications. The GS model in particular is designed for measuring environmental gas samples such as ambient greenhouse air, stack gas, process ventilation, tank car headspace, and other low-pressure applications.

Other recent field instrument releases will help those interested in soils. For example, Spectral Evolution’s PSR+ field portable NIR spectroradiometer provides a quick and easy option for measuring total organic carbon (TOC) in soil, giving users fast, full-spectrum 350nm- 2500nm measurement with one scan. The device also includes a number of features that makes it easy for anyone to use, such as one-touch operation and a small, lightweight design. And the system’s DARWin SP Data Acquisition software automatically saves spectra and data to ASCII file format for use with other analysis software. The system can be used for a number of other soil-related applications as well, including identifying clays in soils and soil mapping, and in vegetation studies for plant species identification.

Spectral reflectance measurements from the company’s PSR-1100 and PSR-1100F field spectroradiometers are other options for those who are literally out in the field doing agricultural testing. For example, these two devices can be used to assess the health of wheat “provid[ing] insights for physiological wheat trait selection, estimated crop yield for agricultural planning, monitoring of crop stress, irrigation and nutrient planning, and potential early diagnosis and control of crop pests,” the company stated in a release.

Managing sample management

For those looking to improve their sample management, Ziath, a company that provides sample tracking solutions for use in laboratories and biobanks, released its DataPaq™ Handheld tube scanner in January. The product claims to be the first truly portable device on the market that allows users to immediately identify tubes and track samples when away from the lab.

“Our unique handheld scanner represents an innovative breakthrough for scanning 2D barcoded tubes,” said David Anstee, commercial director at Ziath. “The single-handed operation simplifies a number of everyday applications for users, including fast tube handling in cold storage facilities or safety hoods [and] quickly storing samples in the field. Those customers that have beta-tested the new instrument are very excited about the flexibility it will offer and the time it will save them when searching for and collecting samples.”

Xylem Analytics’ YSI Pro1020. Spectral Evolution’s PSR+ field portable NIR spectroradiometer. Ziath’s DataPaq™ Handheld tube scanner was released in January. Micronic’s MINI handheld wireless scanner is another option for reading 1D and 2D tube and rack codes.

Another portable option released recently is Micronic’s MINI handheld wireless scanner for reading 1D and 2D tube and rack codes. Its lithium polymer battery gives users a minimum of 15,000 2D scans and is easy to recharge through a USB connection. Similarly, JADAK’s flexpoint HS-2R Bluetooth handheld HF RFID reader and barcode scanner for use in healthcare and medical environments can read all popular linear (1D) and matrix (2D) barcodes. This handheld also reads and writes to HF RFID tags (13.56MHz) and supports a wide range of HF standards. The HS-2R is suited to applications including surgical part tracking, reagent scanning, drug inventory, point of care, and blood tracking. Thermo Fisher Scientific’s VisionMate wireless barcode reader, launched at SLAS2016 in San Diego, rounds out the recent handheld options for tube and rack scanning. It’s designed to lay flat so users don’t even need to hold it while scanning on a lab benchtop; it can also be used as a handheld where samples are stored and can read tubes in a cold environment.

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s VisionMate wireless barcode reader is designed to lay flat so it doesn’t need to be held during the scanning process.“Precise sample tracking and identification is essential to protecting sample integrity and safeguarding sample information,” said Chris Tsourides, senior business director, life science products at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “The enhanced portability of the wireless barcode reader [is] intended to instill user confidence, providing assurance that samples have been securely identified and tracked throughout the workflow.”

Whether you’re ensuring the safety of consumer goods, trekking through the backwoods analyzing the health of a stream, assessing the fertility of a farmer’s field, measuring emissions from a factory, or keeping the samples in your biobank safe and organized, recent field instrument releases have got you covered. Of course, there are many more options than we’ve summarized here, but these are the ones we’ve come across since our last look at this important area of instrumentation.