The virtual conference organized by EMD Millipore brought together industry experts from all over the world
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How can a global audience be comprehensively informed about the current state of technology — for example, in the area of laboratory analysis? To address this question, EMD Millipore has developed virtual conferences with professional speakers, which participants can attend without leaving their desks. In particular, a virtual conference on the theme of food safety was very popular with meeting participants.
A mouse click opens up the entry hall of a conference building. In a brightly lit setting decorated in pleasant tones of blue-gray, visitors receive a friendly greeting and are informed about all the opportunities offered by this professional conference — which they are able to attend without leaving their office or laboratory!
In another few clicks, visitors enter the exhibition hall, where speakers and sponsors are presenting their laboratory solutions or publications. Here visitors can download information, listen to presentations by experts or network with other participants in the Networking Lounge.
Keltoum Benchikh, Head of Global Market Communication in the Lab Water business field at EMD Millipore, conceived and organized the innovative virtual conference format for EMD Millipore. “We’ve realized that fewer and fewer visitors are attending trade fairs. Today nobody has the time or budget to make trips that last several days. That is why we’ve developed this new virtual format for conducting professional dialogue and presenting innovative products,” she says.
For example, at the second virtual conference, which was held in late 2013, the focus was on food analysis. This is an urgent issue, in view of the many cases of food that has been contaminated by substances harmful to health and the fact that there are great differences among the related legal regulations throughout the world.
“This conference brought together industry experts from all over the world to discuss different aspects of this important topic, including food and beverage microbiological testing, environmental monitoring and regulations, and the importance of using high-quality materials in analytical testing,” Keltoum Benchikh explains.
Testing foods and subjecting them to lab analyses is a highly complex process. That is why the instruments and chemicals used by testing laboratories have to be appropriately sophisticated and customized. The conference focused on three central topics: quality control and standardization (Biomonitoring), the impact of water quality on analytical and microbiological testing results (Lab Water), and specific HPLC columns for food analyses (Lab Essentials).
Estelle Riché, a senior scientist who works in the Lab Water unit at EMD Millipore, says, “One important goal of this conference was to show customers that we — Lab Solutions — can offer them a global, comprehensive solution that covers most of their laboratory needs. We can help them solve a very broad range of problems.” One example is the provision of water in various quality categories for lab analyses.
“Water in various stages of purity is the most commonly used reagent in analytics,” she explains. Pure water is H2O — but the water we use in our daily life contains many other substances: ions, organic molecules, gases, bacteria, and particles. However, the water used for food analyses aimed at detecting contaminations in the nanogram range (a nanogram is one billionth of a gram) must be absolutely free of any interfering substances.
In her lecture, Estelle Riché therefore shows the potential impact of water contamination on food analyses, and the range of water purification systems available for converting normal drinking water (via many work steps) into ultrapure lab water.
One method that helps to detect the interfering substance in water or other liquids is high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). In the process, the contaminated sample is forced under pressure through a column filled with fine-pored silica with a pore diameter of 15 nanometers.
The conference focused on the increasingly important theme of food analysis
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At the virtual conference, Egidijus Machtejevas, a product manager for analytic chromatography, presented “a new world of possibilities in food safety”: monolithic silica-based columns, which have proven to be a useful and in many respects advantageous tool for fast and robust analysis of relatively “dirty” samples.
In contrast to conventional particle-packed columns, monolithic silica columns are made of a continuous piece of porous silica with pores in the micro- and nanometer range. Due to the high permeability and porosity of the silica skeleton and the resulting low backpressure, they enable high throughput analysis without loss of separation efficiency. For example, coloring agents in alcopop beverages now can be detected in only four minutes by the HPLC method.
“A virtual conference simply operates in a very pragmatic way. This kind of event meets scientists' needs.“
Head of Global Market Communication in the Lab Water business field at EMD Millipore
This kind of virtual conference with presentations by experts is catching on. Keltoum Benchikh points out that this innovative medium has received positive feedback from participants all over the world. The interested visitors work in every area of food analysis in industry as well as for government authorities and research institutes.
“A virtual conference simply operates in a very pragmatic way. Our evaluations show that many participants looked around at the virtual exhibition and downloaded information material. This kind of event, with such a wide range of offerings, meets scientists’ needs,” she says. “Participants also used the chat function to communicate with one another,” she points out.
However, this mode of communication was not used as extensively as the organizers had expected; the medium is still too young for that. But Keltoum Benchikh is confident that this will change in the future. “For future virtual conference themes, we will also promote the opportunity to chat with colleagues even more intensively so that we can stimulate a lively discussion,” she says.
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