We Are Running Out of Chocolate!

We are facing the world’s biggest chocolate shortage in 50 years

We are facing the world’s biggest chocolate shortage in 50 years

Here’s a scary thought: several news and industry organizations are reporting that the world’s supply of chocolate is in danger.  The problem is that global demand has skyrocketed at the same time that there is a shortage of supply.

West Africa (which grows 70 percent of the world’s cocoa) is facing lower production yields from aging trees.  Ivory Coast and Ghana (the two biggest growers) are suffering from drought.  Cocoa prices have risen 24 percent over the past year.

As a result, cocoa consumption exceeded production by 70,000 metric tons over the past year, according to London’s International Cocoa Organization.  Commerzbank believes the production shortfall may top 100,000 tons in the coming year.  The deficit is expected to last through 2018, making it the longest chocolate shortage in 50 years.

Western Europe continues to have the most chocoholics, who consume 2.2 million tons of cocoa a year.  But Asia is rapidly catching up, as emerging economies improve their standards of living.  Chocolate sales in China have more than doubled over the past decade.  Another trend is the increasing popularity of dark chocolate, which uses seven times more cocoa than standard chocolate.

Agilent is a world-leader in technology solutions for food safety and quality.  Our instruments are used for detecting and measuring compounds in chocolate, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, acrylamide and carbohydrates.


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Agilent in Energy and Chemicals

From your light switches to your gas tank, Agilent is there

From your light switches to your gas tank, Agilent is there

We use energy everywhere in our daily lives, from flipping a light switch to answering a cell phone to fueling a car.  Similarly, we benefit from the chemical industry every time we package leftovers, enjoy new clothes or clean our homes.

Chemical manufacturers convert raw materials such as oil, natural gas, metals and minerals into more than 70,000 different products.  Polymers and plastics comprise much of this industry, used in everything from packaging to backpacks to lingerie to watchbands.

We don’t usually think about energy and chemicals together, but they both rely on petroleum from fossil fuels.  Many major energy companies are also major chemical companies.

Petrochemical pipeline operators use Agilent gas chromatographs (GC) to identify and quantify more than 150 different petrochemical compounds and impurities.  Biofuel producers use Agilent microwave plasma-atomic emission spectrometers (MP-AES) to certify that their products meet environmental quality standards.

Chemical manufacturers use Agilent Fourier Transfer infrared spectrometers (FT-IR) to control the production of polymers.  Makers of agricultural chemicals use Agilent high-performance liquid chromatographs (HPLC) with mass spectrometry (MS) to analyze the effectiveness and environmental impact of pesticides.

For more than 40 years, Agilent has played a leadership role in ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials), the standards body for the energy and chemical industries.  Agilent also works to ensure laboratory safety standards.  As one customer in China observed, “Only Agilent has shown concern about our safety.  None of your competitors have done so.”

Agilent’s customer markets include energy and chemicals, food, the environment, forensics, pharmaceuticals, research and diagnostics.


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Agilent Reinvents the FTIR Imaging Microscope

Agilent offers the highest spatial resolution in the shortest time ever

Agilent offers the highest spatial resolution in the shortest time ever

Agilent has introduced a technological breakthrough in microscopes and chemical imaging systems.  The Agilent Cary 610 and Cary 620 FTIR spectrometer microscopes offer a triple combination of the highest spatial resolution, with the largest field of view, in the shortest period of time.  The instruments are designed for use in a wide range of applications, including biomedical, materials, polymers, food, forensics, pharmaceutical and chemical.

The Cary 610 is a single-point FTIR microscope, while the Cary 620 is a Focal Plane Array (FPA) based chemical imaging FTIR microscope.

FTIR stands for “Fourier Transform InfraRed.”  FTIR spectroscopy is a technique in which information about a sample is collected over a wide spectral range – in this case, an infrared spectrum.  Fourier was a French mathematician whose mathematical process is used in the data conversion.

FTIR imaging techniques often require you to choose between (1) how much area of the sample is measured (the field of view), (2) the level of detail obtained (the spatial resolution), and (3) the amount of time it takes.  The new Cary 600 Series instruments can provide clear, highly detailed images that would normally take hours to measure… all in a matter of minutes.

For comparison, a Linear Array detector-based FTIR imaging system collects only 16 spectra in a time-consuming single measurement, with a pixel resolution of 6.25 μm at best.  The Cary 620 can collect up to 16,384 spectra in seconds, with a pixel resolution as low as 1.1 μm.  (A micron is one millionth of a meter.)

Until now, the only way to obtain high quality, high spatial resolution FTIR chemical images has been at a synchrotron – a building-sized particle accelerator.  Agilent’s announcement has brought the power of synchrotron-based FTIR imaging to the laboratory benchtop.

The Cary 620 matches the power of a state-of-the-art synchrotron

The Cary 620 matches the power of a state-of-the-art synchrotron

“The new high magnification optics enable visualization and quantification of the biochemical content of individual cells,” says Professor Kathleen Gough of the University of Manitoba, Canada.  “This analysis is possible with a thermal source instrument for the first time, because of the high magnification and bright illumination in the Agilent system.”


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