Promoting Collaboration Between Students and Industry

Dr. Joe Swider of McCrone Associates (MA) teamed chemistry student David Guest and his professor Dr. Jeff Jankowski of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois with Wrigley scientists Dr. Peggy Tsatsos and Dr. Xiaohu Xia to devise a project using MA’s Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometer (DART-MS). This instrument is capable of analyzing gum—out of the package, chewed, or aged—directly for organic components. Scientists at Wrigley were interested in a method that would be able to examine chewing gum in various forms with as little alteration to the gum as possible. Typical analysis of samples such as chewing gum would employ techniques that involve extractions, dissolution, and freeze-drying—all preparation techniques that involve additional steps and possible loss of sample. However, with the DART, samples can be analyzed as-is without any sample preparation. Wrigley was also interested in developing an X-Y scanning sampler MA had purchased to map compounds on chewing gum sample surfaces.

As described above, the DART-MS overcomes many issues associated with sample preparation, with the ability to analyze large samples in air without contamination. The DART-MS utilizes a helium plasma stream set to a desired temperature and polarity to best ionize a compound. These parameters are typically varied, with standards to determine the combination that ionizes the most compounds from the sample; compounds with similar chemistry have similar DART parameters.

For this project, gum ingredients, such as colorants, flavors, and sweeteners, were analyzed as a starting point; then actual gum samples were analyzed to establish a set of baseline spectra for the project. The team also implemented an X-Y scanner that was able to sequentially analyze samples on a 12 x 8 cm grid to allow mapping of designated components.

The collaborative effort rewarded all parties: Wrigley received data about their most popular products without any sample preparation, paving the way for future analysis of gum in countless forms, and MA acquired knowledge from David and Dr. Jankowski regarding the implementation of the new X-Y scanner. Most of all, David gained unique experience in learning about developing new analytical techniques and the basics of scientific research.