Please tell us about your background: where you grew up, studied, and why you chose the field you did.
I was born in Linz, Austria, and after high school decided to enter the chemistry program of the local university, the Johannes Kepler University Linz. After completing my Ph.D. program, I had two industrial postdoc positions, at Chemtec Leuna and Wacker Chemie, and focused my academic research on the development and characterization of novel melamine resins, which was also the topic of my habilitation.
Currently I am an associate professor, and my major research areas are polymer analysis with a special focus on mass spectrometry and gemology (the science of gemstones). I also serve as the Editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Polymer Analysis and Characterization.
What does your current position entail? How does it tie into your previous experience, and where is it going?
In addition to teaching polymer characterization and chemical technology, a good share of my time is dedicated to analysis of polymer samples from external customers. The tasks we see range from simple identification of polymers, to failure analysis of all kinds and reverse engineering. The questions asked by industry have become more and more detailed, leading us to develop more advanced polymer separation and identification techniques.
Driven by the need to better understand the synthesis of novel polymers, we have developed (and continue to do so) several approaches that combine liquid chromatography—SEC or HPLC—with mass spectrometry (MALDI, ESI and APCI Orbitrap MS) and NMR, which in my opinion is one of the most powerful combinations to understand polymerization process in detail.
In what context did you first learn about light scattering and Wyatt Technology's instruments?
My first encounter with Wyatt´s light scattering instruments was when an industry partner donated a SEC-MALS system incorporating a miniDAWN® built in the late 1980's. This instrument served us well beyond its planned lifetime and even now, after finding a replacement “antique” laser diode, we are using it to monitor several properties of our polymers.
Our new miniDAWN MALS system is attached to an aqueous SEC system dedicated to the analysis of polymer building blocks, such as polyethers, and polymeric carbohydrates, such as starches and their fate during brewing processes.
Wyatt light scattering instruments are important tools in our analytical arsenal when it comes to the determination of molar masses of novel polymers, for which no matched standards are available.