Innovation in Analytical Chemistry - Analytical Chemistry (ACS

Innovation in Analytical Chemistry - Analytical Chemistry (ACS...

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Innovation in Analytical Chemistry he term innovation derives from the Latin word innovatus, which is the noun form of innovare ‘to renew or change’, stemming from in-‘into’ + novus-‘new’. Although the term is broadly used, innovation generally refers to the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas that affect markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention or renovation in that innovation generally signifies a substantial change compared to entirely new or incremental changes.” ( This Wikipedia article is extensive; many people study and publish on innovation concepts for a living, and the topic is heavy with factors that relate to business. We chemists value innovation, often calling it by its synonyms “original” and “creative”. Journal Editors want reviewers to ask, “Is it present in the manuscript being assessed?” Academic Department Chairs and industrial managers ask the same question of reviewers of candidates for hire or tenure or promotion: has the candidate shown innovation in his or her research? But unlike the Wikipedia article, we spend little time pondering what innovation “is”. Is it a Big Word (meaning substantial change) or a Little Word (meaning incremental change), and how do we measure it? I will take the classical posture of “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it”. Here are some developments in analytical chemistry that I see. In mass spectrometry, how about the ionization modes known as MALDI and electrospray? In spectroscopy, there is laser excited fluorescence, atomic absorption, FTIR, and cavity ring-down. The separations field brings us a host of chemical and physical interactions that cause differential migration—ion exchange, electrophoresis in capillaries, bonded and chiral stationary phases, and more. Capillary electrophoretic and chromatographic principles are also the genesis of microfluidics ideas. Electrochemistry would include cyclic voltammetry, ion selective electrodes for many varieties of ions, and chemically modified electrodes. Imaging innovations include scanning tunneling, atomic force, and scanning electrochemical microscopies. Flow injection analysis is a hugely important analysis tactic. These analytical chemistry topics represent innovations in research that occurred within the past 50 to 60 years, i.e., nearly the entire field of analytical chemistry was born within that span of time. By now you say—wait!—the Editor’s innovations list sounds like the Table of Contents of a good analytical chemistry monograph or textbook. And you are correct; genuine innovations have such value that we seek to preserve general knowledge and understanding of them so our students and coworkers can use them into the future. So another criterion for detecting innovation becomes, “Does it become part of the knowledge base that educators feel is important to their students?” Admittedly, that is detection with a slow time constant. A further aspect of an innovation involves its initial demonstration. Almost all of the above innovations involved the building of a new kind of instrument, which in many cases


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depended on the availability of crucial materials, such as ultraporous phases, fine wires or piezoelectric crystals, or on using computers as part of the instrument control system or on the development of specialized chemical reactions such as surfacebonding chemistry. This brings out the point that many of the named innovations had to await “the right time”, when these crucial ingredients of the instrument-building became available, or were built themselves, as part of the innovation. A conclusion that I reach when thinking about innovation, and originality, is that the general scientific use of these words seriously undervalues what they really mean. As Wikipedia said, they mean Big Change.

Published: August 05, 2011 6431 | Anal. Chem. 2011, 83, 6431–6431