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Analytical precision: innovating together

A discussion with Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific develops high-quality analytical and calibration equipment for applications in geochemistry, life sciences, food product traceability, sports doping, and also research on climate change. The leading analytical instrument manufacturer recently teamed up with Air Liquide to supply customers with stable isotope gases. Find out more about this win-win strategic partnership in a joint interview with Christian Héron, Research/Lab & OEM Market Director at Air Liquide and Peter Schuessler, Vice President & General Manager Inorganic Mass Spectrometry at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Why does a company like Thermo Fisher Scientific need pure gases?

Peter Schuessler: Our instruments measure the relative number of different isotopes of the same chemical element in a given sample (measuring the difference in isotopic ratios). Isotope analysis requires high levels of accuracy, yet, until now, isotopically characterized gases were barely available, and not standardized. Our customers often created in-house versions, which led to significant variation and made it difficult to compare results. To ensure accurate analysis of our equipments, we needed to use pure, standardized and globally identical gases.

What are isotopes?

Stable isotopes are elements that are chemically identical, but are different in mass owing to a difference in the number of neutrons. They are naturally occurring and not radioactive. Their abundance differs with varying conditions. The unique properties of stable isotopes allows them to be used in a wide variety of applications, such as reconstructing past climatic changes and understanding food webs. They can also be used as tracers, which are deliberately added to systems to be studied, such as those used for understanding drug metabolism.

Why did you choose to work with Air Liquide?

Peter Schuessler: The general trend, initiated by customers, is shifting away from standalone instruments to complete solutions. As we move into client markets, we need to develop new turnkey offerings – like combining our equipment with Air Liquide’s stable isotope gases - and partnerships are an effective way to achieve this. We approached Air Liquide to cater for this specific, unmet need of pure, standardized and globally identical gases. With an impressive scientific background, the right equipment and an international presence with global reach, Air Liquide was our company of choice to commercialize this solution.

How did you work at Air Liquide to meet Thermo Fisher Scientific's specific needs?​​​​​​​

Christian Héron: Our business and R&D teams have set up a joint initiative to meet Thermo Fisher Scientific's requirements. We have proposed an innovative offer of three pure reference gases - CO2, hydrogen and nitrogen - with different isotopic ratios to enable comparisons and a unique packaging - under the ALPHAGAZ™ brand name - to meet global regulations.

What are the mutual benefits of the new partnership?

Peter Schuessler: We can now offer a complete solution that provides confidence and convenience. Customers also benefit from expert assistance from two industry leaders. This approach enabled us to combine high-quality equipment with leading gas expertise, so global players can compare results with unprecedented accuracy.

Christian Héron: By integrating the ALPHAGAZ™ gases along with equipment offerings, Thermo Fisher Scientific provides Air Liquide the opportunity to engage new customers and open the doors to an attractive and innovative market and thus achieve better overall performance. On the other hand, by benefiting from Air Liquide's expertise and innovation capacity in the field of specialty gases, Thermo Fisher Scientific provides a fully reliable turnkey solution (equipment and gas) meeting the analytical precision needs of its end customers.

 

Our customers can benefit from expert assistance from two industry leaders

What was the biggest challenge with this partnership? And how do you think this partnership will evolve in the future?

Peter Schuessler: It was a long process lasting more than 3 years. I can’t emphasize enough the strong teamwork and motivation from everyone that kept the passion alive. With Air Liquide, we now hope to develop more reference gases for different uses including, in the longer term, medical applications like diagnostics.