Microwave digestion of diatoms for forensic diagnosis of drowning

Anton Paar microwave reaction systems for sample preparationMD-VF-Auto SEM represents a powerful combination of microwave digestion, vacuum filtration and automated scanning electron microscopy for the qualitative and quantitative determination of diatoms.

The Challenge

In forensic science, the determination of the cause of death for bodies discovered in water is one of the most challenging tasks.  At present, the diatom test is considered as best practice procedure in solving drowning cases. During the process of drowning, the diatoms in the water will be inhaled into the lungs. Depending on the size some of them can enter into the blood stream and lodge in distant organs before death. The presence of diatoms in the tissue of internal organs not only indicates ante-mortem drowning but due to the distribution of characteristic species also gives information about the site of drowning. Conventional methods for the digestion of organ material are rather time consuming and due to limited sensitivity often are restricted to their high false negative findings.

The Benefits of Microwave Digestion

Take profit from the following advantages by using microwave digestion as the first step of MD-VF-Auto SEM:

  • Better digestion quality: more complete digestion and thus higher recovery rates and sensitivity
  • Less contamination: less organic matter which leads to better diatom identification
  • Less operation time: about 15 min required for one digestion
  • Saving of money: much lower acid consumption due to closed vessels

The Best Solution

Anton Paar has been working in the field of microwave technology for more than three decades and offers two microwave reaction systems for sample preparation: Multiwave PRO and Multiwave GO.

Multiwave PRO – The Master of Sample Preparation Methods

Multiwave PRO masters high temperatures and provides comprehensive safety features. Its wide range of accessories allows digestion, leaching, oxygen combustion, solvent extraction, drying, evaporation, and UV digestion with one single system. Anton Paar’s 90 years of experience in smart engineering and consistent use of high-quality components result in a microwave reaction system which runs reliably for years. Multiwave PRO has the strongest microwave power on the market. The dual solution for reaction control – an immersing temperature probe with integrated pressure sensor in one reference vessel and infrared sensors underneath the rotor – ensures precise control of the reaction conditions.

Multiwave GO – The Economic Tool for Sample Digestion

Multiwave GO is a routine digestion system with an extremely lightweight rotor for 12 vessels providing SMART VENT technology. Based on a DMC Directed Multimode Cavity – the new self-adjusting microwave field invented by Anton Paar – highly efficient heating is possible in an extremely small-footprint system. For efficient reaction control the internal vessel temperature of each vessel is controlled via an IR sensor.

Anton Paar Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd

Tel: (011) 021 5165/6/7

Fax: 086 610 3908

[email protected]


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