Microvolume Spectroscopy

Microvolume spectroscopy is a new and rapidly developing segment of the molecular spectroscopy market. It is expected to account for more than 10% of the combined UV-visible and fluorescence spectroscopy markets this year. The market consists of both instruments and specialized aftermarket cuvettes.

Microvolume spectrophotometers, which primarily include UV-visible instruments as well as some fluorescence spectrofluorometers, can analyze sample sizes of less than 5 µL and, in many cases, sample sizes as small as 0.5 µL. New systems can also analyze samples in conventional volume cuvettes using specialized fittings. Many instrument vendors and aftermarket suppliers, including HELLMA GmbH and Starna Scientific, have tackled the microvolume analysis market by developing microcuvettes that work with conventional spectrophotometers.

Microvolume spectroscopy was developed with bioanalysis in mind. Some of the most common applications include quantitation of DNA, RNA and proteins in biotechnology and academic laboratories. Such instruments are also becoming popular in clinical laboratories, where sample conservation is very important, such as in tissue matching for organ transplants. Microvolume spectrometers also generally allow the user to pipette the sample back up, thus helping with sample conservation.

The microvolume spectroscopy market first began with NanoDrop Technologies’ introduction of the NanoDrop 1000 in 2000. Thermo Fisher Scientific acquired NanoDrop in 2007 (see IBO 10/15/07). In 2007, Scandrop introduced a system that analyzed samples as small as 2 µL. Harvard Bioscience’s Biochrom subsidiary entered the fray in 2008 by developing its own microvolume instrument, as well as providing an OEM model for GE Life Sciences, which is sold as the NanoVue. Shimadzu, one of the largest vendors in the overall UV-visible spectroscopy market, entered the market in 2009 with its BioSpec-nano (see IBO 3/15/09). Thermo is the clear leader in the market, while GE Life Sciences is second. Shimadzu should gain ground rather quickly due to its strong position in UV-Visible spectroscopy and biotechnology instrument markets. Other vendors include Alpha Innotech and Analytik Jena.

The market for microvolume spectroscopy is estimated to have been near $90 million in 2008, and will easily break the $100 million mark in 2009, despite the deep global recession. Much of the demand for microvolume spectroscopy instruments comes from academic laboratories, which are now beginning to benefit from government stimulus spending programs. The fact that microvolume spectrometers are relatively affordable is helping to limit delays and cancellations in orders from smaller and budget-constrained laboratories in the current economy. While growth may not be as strong as the 20% plus annual rate experienced in the last few years, it should still be well into the double digits.

Microvolume Spectroscopy

at a Glance:

Leading Suppliers

• Thermo Fisher Scientific

• GE Life Science

• Shimadzu

Largest Markets

• Academia

• Biotechnology

• Hospital/Clinical

Instrument Cost

• $7,000–$12,000

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