A new method has been developed for monitoring and control of automated sample processing and preparation especially focusing on desalting of samples before analytical analysis (described in more detail in “Automated Desalting Apparatus,” (NPO-45428), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 34, No. 8 (August 2010), page 44). The use of non-contact conductivity probes, one at the inlet and one at the outlet of the solid phase sample preparation media, allows monitoring of the process, and acts as a trigger for the start of the next step in the sequence (see figure). At each step of the muti-step process, the system is flushed with low-conductivity water, which sets the system back to an overall low-conductivity state. This measurement then triggers the next stage of sample processing protocols, and greatly minimizes use of consumables.
In the case of amino acid sample preparation for desalting, the conductivity measurement will define three key conditions for the sample preparation process. First, when the system is neutralized (low conductivity, by washing with excess de-ionized water); second, when the system is acidified, by washing with a strong acid (high conductivity); and third, when the system is at a basic condition of high pH (high conductivity).
Taken together, this non-contact conductivity measurement for monitoring sample preparation will not only facilitate automation of the sample preparation and processing, but will also act as a way to optimize the operational time and use of consumables.