Dolomite Microfluidics, based in Royston, UK, is a brand of Blacktrace Holdings Ltd, a company which develops and manufactures groundbreaking technologies for applications in biology, chemistry, microfluidics and nanomaterials.
Dolomite Microfluidics specialises in the production of high-performance nano- and microparticles which are precision-engineered for advanced functionality and encapsulation. These materials have unique properties determined by their size, shape and architecture which enable them to be used as specialised research tools within biomedicine, diagnostic imaging and industrial catalysis.
At Dolomite Microfluidics, state-of-the-art automated continuous flow processing and droplet microfluidics are used to ensure very monodisperse particles with high batch-to-batch consistency. This is a feature which discriminates Dolomite Microfluidics from other manufacturers and optimizes their products’ performance, whilst allowing their customers to generate high quality, reliable data.
Pavel Abdulkin is Particle Works’ Co-Founder and the Head of Chemistry at Dolomite Microfluidics, and is responsible for developing and growing the company’s particle engineering business.
Control and Optimisation
The team at Dolomite Microfluidics designs their materials for peak performance, and it is their strict control over particle size which enables them to optimize size-related functionalities such as plasmon resonance, fluorescence efficiency, and emission colour. They depend on technologies which can accurately characterize these 5 nm – 500 µm particles, ensuring that their size and morphology both lie within tightly-controlled limits.
Their go-to technique to manage these requirements was transmission electron microscopy (TEM), a reliable yet expensive, time-consuming and therefore low-throughput process which became a limiting factor in their production efficiency. In addition, TEM is only capable of measuring a small proportion of each sample during each analysis, so it often needed support from an orthogonal technique in order to verify the state of the entire sample.
A new, better, faster way of working
Pavel recalls, “After first meeting Malvern Panalytical, we began to discuss our analytical needs and challenges with them. At the time, Malvern Panalytical were interested in understanding how a new solution they were developing, the Zetasizer Ultra, performed in a working laboratory environment. We used the instrument to gather data on a wide range of our sample types, whilst providing feedback on both the system and its software.”
The Dolomite Microfluidics team found the Zetasizer Ultra trivial to set up in their lab and found that most of their scientists were up and running with the new system within one day.
Pavel explains: “We are now able to characterize our research samples using Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) much more rapidly than we could with TEM – we are looking at a measurement and data analysis time of less than 5 minutes per sample, compared to the 4 hours for measurement alone that we were used to with TEM.
“And what’s really great is that there’s no delay between synthesis and measuring the samples. Using the Zetasizer Ultra, we can analyze the product immediately after it’s made (or even analyze samples on the fly during synthesis!) to better understand the way our particles form and rapidly see if the product meets our Quality Control specifications.”
Pavel continues: “We benchmarked our sample analysis using the Zetasizer Ultra against previous TEM analysis and proved that the new DLS data was reliable and accurate. This gave us confidence in the ability of the Zetasizer Ultra to measure new samples without needing TEM data as a ‘safety net’.
“Data is so quick to acquire, easy to analyze, and is representative of the whole sample, giving us true particle size distributions. Using Multi-Angle DLS (MADLS®) in particular, we can be completely sure that we don’t miss measuring a single particle, ensuring the monodispersity of our products.
“By using the Zetasizer Ultra to test our samples we were able to significantly reduce the amount of TEM that we perform, which has enabled us to streamline both our R&D process and our Quality Control, and significantly reduce our analytical costs. Our sample throughput has increased dramatically – we are now looking at around one month per development cycle, as opposed to the 12 months this originally required.”
Why Malvern Panalytical?
Dolomite Microfluidics found that the Zetasizer Ultra uniquely and clearly met their analytical requirements. Pavel adds, “Malvern Panalytical has a fantastic reputation in the field of particle analysis. Several of our employees have used their solutions in the past and had favourable experiences.”
“The team at Malvern Panalytical have been fantastic collaborators, and communication with them has always been easy, with quick, detailed responses from all individuals involved. The support we have received has been excellent – either via email or ‘phone, as well as visits to install updates and give refresher training, which reminded us of additional functionality we could be using. We hope to continue our collaborative relationship in the future.”
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