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October 28, 2013

Cutter Gets R&D Award for Arsenic Analyzer

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By Jim Raper

Greg Cutter, a chemical oceanographer on the faculty of Old Dominion, has received a 2013 R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine for his work on an analysis instrument that can quickly and easily detect arsenic in food or water.

The award is for the development by PID Analyzers, a private company, of the Model 33 Arsenic in Water & Food Analyzer. Cutter has served as a consultant to the Massachusetts company, working with the owner, Jack Driscoll. The R&D 100 Award lists Driscoll as principal developer of the arsenic analyzer.

"I've worked with their (PID Analyzers') gas chromatographic detector for the last 30 years and discovered more than 20 years ago that it worked great for analyzing arsenic," Cutter said. He said he and Driscoll stayed in touch over the years and were ready to work together when public concern mounted in 2011 and 2012 about arsenic levels in common food items such as apple juice and baby formula.

"Jack and I collaborated to commercialize the system we had developed for analyzing arsenic in natural waters, both freshwater and seawater. That was it. I was a collaborator, but have no investment or monetary interest in the company," Cutter said. "I guess I get to share in the limelight, though."

The Model 33 is described by PID Analyzers as a sensitive and easy-to-use analyzer for the speciation and detection of arsenic compounds (inorganic and organic) in food, water or soil. The technology used is hydride generation and gas chromatography coupled with a photoionization detector.

Cutter, who is a professor in the ODU Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and also is affiliated with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is one of the leaders currently of GEOTRACES, the largest research program ever in chemical oceanography. The project, which started in 2007 and is expected to last through this decade, will cost more than $200 million and involve scientists from 30 countries. The research findings are expected to have a broad impact on our understanding of global climate change and seawater contamination.

In 2007, Cutter was the recipient of ODU's annual Faculty Research Achievement Award "for his outstanding research over more than 20 years at Old Dominion and for his international reputation as a scholar and scientist." He has spent close to 600 days working aboard research vessels and was among an international team of scientists who participated in a 2005 trans-Arctic research expedition, gathering samples and data that will provide information about climate cycles through the ages and present-day global warming.