The English city of Cambridge has long been recognised world-wide as a centre for innovation and scientific endeavour, so it was the natural place for ROMIL, the independent manufacturer of premium quality laboratory chemicals, to set up its new headquarters in 1993. The company chose to name its new base The Source because in the same way that a river is at its purest at the source, so it should be for chemical reagents.
The company, which employs around 30 people, has an ambitious and well-advanced plan to become the leader in the production and supply of high purity reagents.
Steady and sustained annual growth has brought the company into the top three of UK companies in its field with an estimated 20% market share. Exports are a significant contributor to turnover, an achievement recognised by the prestigious Queens Award for Export.
ROMIL has almost 30 year's of experience in manufacturing and supplying high purity solvents, acids and reagents to countless analytical scientists and molecular biologists. During that time the issue of quality in the analytical laboratory has emerged as the common thread that runs through all types of chemical measurement.
It is easy to see why. Political initiatives to enhance and facilitate trade at both local and global levels have forced analysts to look critically at their methods and the results obtained from them. Are they right for the purpose intended? Are they in agreement with other laboratories? Are they traceable? Are they valid?
The analytical community itself has been responsible for many of the quality initiatives that have arisen. Initiatives such as adoption of recognised quality systems such as ISO 17025, participation in proficiency testing schemes, not to mention use of ISO Guide 34 certified reference materials in method validation. These all assist the analytical chemist to achieve the ultimate goal of validity of results.
But an often-neglected piece in this jigsaw is the quality of the actual reagents used in the analysis. Laboratory quality systems generally state that such materials should be identified by the analyst as being 'fit for the purpose'. But what exactly does this mean?
The term 'analytical reagent' was introduced in the early part of the last century when the impurity levels in reagents were very variable, even for the rudimentary wet chemical techniques available at the time. These problems were tackled by identifying a range of chemicals of well-defined purity. But such purity is just not good enough for today's analyses, which more often than not are performed on very sensitive analytical instruments, very different from those of the past.
The traditional suppliers of laboratory chemicals have over the years responded to the changes with specialist grades to meet new techniques as they emerged. A glance through a typical catalogue reveals a bewildering array of product grades and purity levels from which the scientist has to choose. It is not unusual to find 10 possible grades each for methanol and acetonitrile alone, among them the still ubiquitous 'analytical grade'. Yet if you compare the typical solvent grade used in the 1960s and 1970s for simple column chromatography with today's HPLC, you will find that the solvent purity requirement is now some 100,000 times better in terms of background impurities.
- Focus : Manufacturer
- Industry : Laboratory analysis / Laboratory measurement technology