What is Sample Digestion?

Understanding the elemental composition of sample materials can be difficult, if not impossible, without first converting them into a format that is compatible with specific modes of analysis. Optical Emissions Spectrometer and Mass Spectrometer systems, for example, can provide valuable insights into what elements are present in a myriad of different sample types; provided they are first decomposed into a homogenous solution. Sample digestion is an essential part of this process.

Female scientist analyzing sample in the laboratory

Sample Digestion: The Basics

What is sample digestion? Well, the simple answer is the process of decomposing a solid sample into a liquid state by dissolving it using reagents such as strong acids, alkalis, or enzymes. The mixture of sample and reagent is usually heated to the point of boiling which greatly speeds up the dissolution process.

Chemists rely on various sample digestion techniques to prepare a wide range of materials for subsequent elemental analysis. Ash, biological matter, ceramics, cosmetics, food products, metals, minerals, pharmaceuticals, and more are routinely decomposed via acid digestion prior to analysis via precision techniques like inductively coupled plasma optical emissions spectroscopy (ICP-OES) or inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS).

The primary benefit of sample digestion is that it yields a solution that is representative of the original material with greater homogeneity while eliminating complex matrix effects. One of the downsides is that our understanding of the relevant dissolution chemistries is limited, which can lead to poor dissolution efficiency.

Accelerating sample digestion could have a tangible impact on operational throughput and cost-efficiency, thus productivity and profit margins, particularly for high-value processes like metals analysis.

What is ColdBlock® Digestion?

ColdBlock® digestion is a revolutionary concept that uses focussed short-wave infrared (FSWIR) radiation to target sample particles and accelerate the decomposition process. This minimizes the need to rely on strong reagents like hydrofluoric and perchloric acids when breaking down even the most difficult matrices.

The system is based on a FSWIR excitation source coupled with a cooling zone., The FSWIR energizes the particles directly while the cooling zone promotes condensation. This yields extremely precise digestions in a fraction of the time taken via traditional means, typically providing homogenous liquid samples for analysis in mere minutes. The result is a versatile system that champions greater automation, higher precision, improved sustainability, and better occupational safety.

Sample Digestion with ColdBlock

ColdBlock Technologies is the proprietor of ColdBlock® digestion, the world’s first sample digester that combines the FSWIR heating technology with cooling. If you would like to learn more about our pioneering sample digestion technology, simply contact a member of the ColdBlock team today.