I hunt with arrows… SPME that is!

When you say “I hunt with arrows” in central PA, you better be prepared for a long conversation about whitetail deer. So, I better clarify that I am talking about hunting for organic compounds with a SPME Arrow. What is all this I am talking about?

Time for a brief history lesson: Janusz Pawliszyn (University of Waterloo) developed solid phase microextraction (SPME) and published the first article on the technology back in 1990. After filing a patent on SPME fibers, the technology was later licensed to Supelco. The 17-year patent meant the following two things: 1. No one else could offer traditional SPME fibers and 2. No one could make any improvements to the technology. However, now that the patent has expired, Restek is able to offer traditional SPME fibers. In case you have not been paying attention to Restek’s product portfolio (not sure why not), we have been offering traditional Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME) fibers since the summer of 2016. A nice addition to our product offering; however, nothing incredibly revolutionary.

As I already told you, SPME technology has seen no improvements in the last two decades. BUT (bold and capitalized, so time to pay attention)… now Restek can finally offer something new and exciting. Cue the Restek PAL SPME Arrow! The SPME Arrow was designed to overcome the following two most significant disadvantages associated with traditional SPME fibers: 1. Limited mechanical robustness and 2. Small phase volumes. If you have been using traditional SPME fibers, then you know exactly what I am speaking of. In fact, I know you feel the following pain:

You sneeze on a traditional SPME fiber and the thing is bent. Now let us take a look at a SPME Arrow:

Here is a better image to give you a direct comparison between traditional and Arrow SPMEs:


Right off the bat you will notice the increased size of the SPME Arrow, which results in increased mechanical stability and phase volumes. All of which we can dive into next time. So stay tuned to this multi-part blog series, where I break down in detail what a SPME Arrow is and what kind of performance  you can expect from a SPME Arrow.

4 Responses to “I hunt with arrows… SPME that is!”

  1. Hailey says:

    The “sheath” part of the Arrow looks to be much thicker than the traditional setup; is septum coring an issue when injecting manually into a GC?

  2. Thomi says:

    The tip of the SPME Arrow is pointed guiding the sheath part and therefore even more gentle (no sharp edge) to the vial and inlet septa coring compared to a classical SPME Fiber.

  3. Huw R Jones says:

    Yo Jason, interesting history lesson on SPME. However, your statement that since Supelco owned the patent no one could improve on the tech is not absolutely correct. As a Patent Attorney who started the legal department at Waters Chromatography, and having run a GC/MS for four years, I know from experience that the Supelco patent should not have been an impediment. I know that a patentable improvement would have been tradable with Supelco, as follows.

    This is how it works: First Inventor Company discovers basic new technology and patents, then markets First Gen product. Improvement inventor Company discovers and patents the improved/Second Gen version with superior performance (and enhanced commercial attractiveness). First Company can’t market the Second Gen product unless it licenses Improvement Patent, and Improvement Company cannot commercialize Second Gen unless it gets a license from First Company. A cross-license is one way this works to everyone’s benefit, and with some decent negotiation that’s normally what happens. Supelco would get the ability to sell both, and Improvement Inventor would actually recieve royalties on sales of Second Gen. This avoids the situation that apparently happened here.

    If someone had asked me, I could have attempted to make this happen . . . just sayin’.

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