For those of us who are scientists, we know science stole our hearts, we undoubtedly love science, and we have a curiosity to understand why and discover new things. We are fortunate to do what we love. If we think back, there was a tipping point along our paths that fostered our interest and love of science. Perhaps we attribute our science career to mentors who provided us the opportunity and freedom to explore our curiosity as an undergraduate student? Well, science is stealing another heart: meet fellow scientist in-training, Lilian (Lily) White.

Lily is a sophomore majoring in chemistry at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. She recently presented a poster at the 247th American Chemical Society National Meeting in Dallas, Texas. Lily presented her poster on the Quantitative Analysis of Ethanol in Hand Sanitizers Utilizing a Thermo Scientific picoSpin 45 NMR Spectrometer. Indeed, hand sanitizers are prevalent in our society. Whether in the lavatory or the airport or our living space or the grocery store there is a dispenser of hand sanitizer for use. For her project, Lily looked for a confluence between medicine and chemistry, areas of interest to her. She noticed the bottle of hand sanitizer in her room contained ethanol as a single, active ingredient. Working with her research advisor, Professor Bryan Smith, they decided upon using the Thermo Scientific picoSpin 45 NMR spectrometer to quantify ethanol in hand sanitizers.

The germ theory of disease, dating back to the 1670s, states that microorganisms can and often do cause disease, is perhaps the single most important contribution to the practice of modern medicine. In healthcare settings, noscomial infections, or hospital-acquired infections, are a big problem with infections passing from patient to patient via hands of healthcare workers. Use of hand sanitizers, containing a minimal effective concentration of 60% ethanol, is a crucial factor for infection control in healthcare settings. The active ingredient in hand sanitizers, ethanol, is a volatile molecule. What happens to the concentration of ethanol after opening a container of hand sanitizers? In an open container of hand sanitizer, does the concentration of ethanol decrease, subsequently, decreasing the efficacy of the hand sanitizer?

Lily, equipped with a picoSpin 45 NMR spectrometer, set out to address whether or not the concentration of ethanol in hand sanitizers remain constant after opening the container. Her experiment monitored the concentration of ethanol in opened and sealed containers of Purell™ Advanced hand sanitizer over a period of two weeks. Utilizing the picoSpin 45 NMR spectrometer, Lily generated a calibration curve for solutions of ethanol covering a concentration range of 10 – 75% (v/v) to determine the concentration of ethanol in the opened and closed containers of hand sanitizer. Over a 2-week period, once per day, an aliquot of hand sanitizer was injected, neat, in to the capillary cartridge of the picoSpin 45 NMR spectrometer. The data acquired using the picoSpin 45 spectrometer was processed with Mnova™ NMR processing software. The ratio of the areas for the OH and the CH3 peaks was determined. Using the calibration curve, the approximate concentrations of ethanol in the hand sanitizer samples were determined. Results from the 2-week study suggest the average concentration of ethanol in the closed container samples is 0.3% higher than the concentration of ethanol in the open-container samples. Additional experiments over a longer time period are necessary to definitively determine the relationship between amount of time a container is open and concentration of ethanol in the hand sanitizer. 

This project offered Lily the opportunity to be independent in the laboratory: learning how to use the picoSpin instrument, learning the Mnova software and understanding the scope necessary to develop an experiment. Working in the lab on this project was a fun and exciting experience for Lily. The picoSpin 45 NMR spectrometer is a powerful tool for igniting an interest in science and discovery for your students. When we are given the opportunity and freedom to research we realize there are a multitude of questions and problems awaiting answers and solutions!

May our curiosity keep leading us down new paths!

About NMR Tech Talk

Featuring the latest news, events, and educational approaches in benchtop NMR, Tech Talk is your forum for bringing this interesting and valuable technique into the classroom or as part of your analytical laboratory. Discover what's new from peers and from our experts at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Read additional issues ›

Spectroscopy, Elemental & Isotope Analysis Resource Library

Access a targeted collection of application notes, case studies, videos, webinars and white papers covering a range of applications for Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, near infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) spectrophotometry, X-ray fluorescence, and more.