QuEChERS – Is this the Game-Changer?

Martin Perkins

27th March 2013

The Teledyne Tekmar AutoMate Q-40 for residues in food products

For labs that are involved in analysing for residues in food, a heavyweight automation solution has emerged with the potential to not only change the way the job is done.

You may like to take a few minutes to watch The Teledyne Tekmar AutoMate Q-40 video.

I have just returned from Pittcon in Philadelphia, which is the show where the lab instrumentation industry loves to show case its newest products.  One thing that was noticeable was the large number of companies promoting products for performing the QuEChERS sample preparation methods.

Over the past decade or so, variations on the QuEChERS theme have come to dominate sample preparation in the field of pesticide residue analysis and now it feels like every instrument and consumables company is hoping for a slice of what is now, a considerable global market.

The name QuEChERS, is an acronym for Quick, Cheap, Easy, Robust and Safe.  Relative to the clean-up methods that came before, this description is fair, accurate and explains the rapid rate at which it has been adopted.

However, in absolute terms, it is true to say that residue clean-up is still Slow, Expensive, Difficult, Tricky and not notably Safer than other protocols in use (someone else can work out the corresponding acronym).  As a consequence, there is plenty of scope for significant improvements.

At Pittcon, the greatest QuEChERS tour-de-force was on the Teledyne Tekmar booth in the form of the AutoMate Q-40.

The AutoMate Q-40 is a very well engineered machine that is designed for years of hard use.

The instrument is designed to do one thing only and to do it better than anything else available.  Doing it well means also to have the flexibility to cope with most variations of QuEChERS that labs are currently using.

In my opinion Tekmar have got it absolutely right with this instrument.

  • It will enable labs to automate their manual methods with only minor modifications.
  • It will save a lot of routine manual work.
  • It is designed for heavy routine use and for ease of maintenance.
  • Tekmar state that reducing consumable costs per sample was also a key design consideration and that they estimate a 30% saving on this item alone.

The AutoMate Q-40 is designed to hammer the area of greatest cost associated with residue analysis – the sample clean-up.  My business sense tells me that if the AutoMate comes close to fulfilling its potential in the field, then commercial labs using this instrument will find themselves reducing their costs and improving their competitive position decisively.

Currently, the AutoMate Q-40 is undergoing domestic beta testing in the USA now and the first international beta test will be taking place in a UK lab around the middle of this year.

This product will be launched at our June Conferences at Down Hall (just North of London) and at Hazlewood Castle (near Leeds).  For more information and booking, please follow this link.