The user interface is one of the most important aspects of the system and one on which we have spent a lot of time. The user interface is how you interact with the system, so it’s the user interface that determines whether the system is easy to use or not.
We have created the easiest to use software for a GC. It allows novices to the technique to effectively use the miniGC as well as allowing experts the full control they are used to. We start by building intelligence into the system with flow controllers and RFID tagging of the columns that provide the system with knowledge of what column is in the system. This information in combination with internal calculations means that the system can help make intelligent decisions regarding input parameters requiring users to understand less about what is going on in the system or giving expert users more insight into what is going on in the system.
Using a button driven interface also results in less confusing to navigate software. Instead of having to dig through menus to find what you are looking for all the information is right in front of you when you need it. And instead of needing external calculators or operation manuals, all the needed information is built into the software and presented to you as you are making decisions. The software helps you determine how to get the best results.
The open source philosophy of the software also allows importing of methods from different sources and open communication with other lab or instrument software. We understand that users use our system in many different environments and our goal is to operate effectively in any needed environment not dictate the needed environment.
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The goal of the overall system is to create an extremely simple to use GC with the power of a conventional system, so the interface is critical to making the system easy to use. As you can see from the home screen you have three main areas of the software you can enter, Methods, Results, or Run. You don't have to dig through a Menus at the top of the screen in order to determine where you need to go first.
This is the screen on which you can view your selected method. You can set your liner velocity or carrier gas flow rate as well as your ramp on this screen or import methods. You also have the capability to enter known compounds with their expected retention times into the method so that while the method is running the system will identify compounds as they come out. For novice users, the software minimizes input parameters for simplification of method creation, but for advanced users, the software allows full control of all parameters, and in both cases the system will give suggested ranges of input parameters for optimal results. The goal is to contain all the information for your method in one easy to find location and to keep it from being overwhelming and make it easy to understand.
Starting a New Run
To get to the run screen simply select the Run option from the main screen. This screen then appears that walks you through all the steps you need to take in order to start a run on the miniGC. No digging through menus to make sure you have set everything correctly in order to start a run. Again the goal is to make it simple. If you haven’t used a GC in a while or have never used our system before, you should be able to comfortably operate the miniGC. Enter your run name, choose a method, check your gas levels, and press Start. It’s that easy.
Once you start a run, you’ll see this screen. The system will indicate what it’s doing to prepare for the run, like bringing the injection port, detector, and column to temperature, and stabilizing the gas flow for the particular method that is loaded. It will also indicate when the system is ready for injection.
Run Screen Continued
Once the injection is made and the system begins the run, you'll see this screen. On the left you'll see the chromatogram and the peaks as they are detected. You'll notice on the right that the screen will show anticipated components and their expected retention times if these have been included in the method. As the run progresses you will see the countdown timer indicating remaining test time left in the run.
Run Screen Continued
You will also see, as the run progresses, a confirmation of peaks that are expected or a notice of peaks that are not based on the components that have been loaded into the method. You will see a countdown time for the remainder of the run as well as countdown timers for each subsequent compound. This information becomes particularly valuable in QA/QC settings where it is known what compounds are contained in the samples and the operator is simply looking for the presence and quantity of these known compounds in different samples.
End of Run Screen
This is what you will see displayed at the end of a run or when you look up an old run through the Results option. It shows the full chromatogram along with an expected components list on the right. It shows the retention time of each of these components as well as a percentage value that represents the quantity of that particular compound as a percentage of the overall quantity of components in the sample. These percentages and the corresponding peak integration values can all be adjusted based on different criteria similar to conventional GCs if the operator is unhappy with the particular method of peak integration or peak inclusion that has been used for different data. The idea is not to limit the user's capabilities with the miniGC giving users a range of options for how much control they want over the system so that novices and experts alike can use the miniGC.