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Increased Throughput Using ASE: A Customer's Perspective

In the past, our company had used the Soxhlet method for extraction of soil samples. Due to the fact that this is a lengthy, labor-intensive process that yields low percent recoveries, we were looking for a better solution for our soil extractions. A friend who works for the EPA recommended the Dionex Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE) system. I was impressed with the small amount of cleaning required between samples and the high sample throughput. We looked into the ASE as well as several other options; we didn’t think that we could afford the ASE so we were also considering several other options.

After much research and discussion, we decided to purchase the Dionex ASE. When it first arrived, we were having trouble getting good percent recoveries from the instrument for one of our methods. As soon as I notified Dionex, they were very responsive. They outlined the tests that they wanted me to conduct and from my results determined what was wrong. They had their service engineer come and install an accessory to the instrument that was needed for this particular extraction. This all happened within less than a week of my initial phone call telling them that I wasn’t achieving the percent recoveries needed.

Once the accessory was installed, the methods were very easy to develop.  The Dionex technical support team was very helpful and knowledgeable and we were able to have a working method within a few days, and I was impressed with the percent recoveries that we were obtaining. With Soxhlet extraction, our lab typically obtained percent recoveries in the low 70% range and often had to rerun sample sets due to unacceptably low recoveries. For one of our methods with the Dionex ASE, we have rarely seen percent recoveries below 90%.  For our second method, the percent recoveries are typically in the 85%  range. We have not yet had to rerun a sample set due to unacceptable percent recoveries when using the ASE system. With the way that the ASE rinses in between runs, we have never seen carryover or contamination in any of our blank runs.

Another thing that we have been impressed with is the reduction in time spent cleaning and preparing glassware. We estimate that with ASE, we spend 1/4 of the time cleaning in between sample runs versus Soxhlet extractions.

Using the ASE system, we are now able to run a set of 20 samples including the QC in eight (8) hours. Because everything on the ASE is automated, we can run an additional set at night without having to return and check solvent levels during that time.  

In order to configure a soil extraction run on the ASE, the required steps are to fill up the solvent container, put the cells and collection bottles in the proper places and push a button. In fact, when we teach our laboratory technicians how to prepare and start the ASE, most report that it is too easy and it seems like it should be more difficult to program or have more steps involved.

We have been thrilled with the entire experience of our purchase and use of the Dionex ASE. Dionex’s team has been very responsive and knowledgeable when answering questions. The ASE has worked wonderfully and is simple to operate. The percent recoveries we have obtained are above our expectations. I would highly recommend purchasing the ASE to anyone who is considering it. If you think that you can’t afford it, you will find that with the labor and time savings that the ASE will provide for your company, you can’t afford not to own an ASE system. I honestly don’t know how we ever made it through a summer of soil sampling without the Dionex ASE.    

Heidi Fabrizius
ACS Certified Chemist and President, Precision Analysis