Sitting Down with a Chromatography Icon: Dr. Robert Sternberg

Author:Chris English
Restek Corporation

Published By: Restek Corporation

Year of Publication: 2015



Restek’s Chris English sat down for an interview with chromatography icon Robert Sternberg, who received his PhD in electrochemical biosensors and worked on the development of a glucose sensor in an artificial pancreas for 10 years before joining an emerging field of astrobiology. This started a 37-year career in analytical chemistry that would play a critical role in the success of the Cassini-Huygens, Curiosity, ExoMars, and most recently the Rosetta mission. His areas of interests are in the characterization for organic molecules in extraterrestrial environments. Dr. Sternberg and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been working with Restek, using our columns and Pro ezGC® software on their missions, for over 15 years. With the Rosetta spacecraft and its Philae lander making the news recently, Chris caught up with Dr. Sternberg to discuss his work.

Learn More About Rosetta, Philae, and the Restek® MXT® GC Capillary Columns They Carry

MXT Columns in SpaceIn November 2014, the Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae lander made history by achieving the first soft landing on a comet. Earlier last year, we told you about four different phases of our metal MXT® columns being selected for this decade-long mission because of their well-earned reputation for ruggedness and reliability. And now, even though insufficient access to sunlight after the landing has forced the lander into safe mode, the scientific community’s interest in it still has full power:

Restek’s Chris English, Laboratory Manager for our in-house Innovations Group, recently coauthored a poster with Doron Hosiosky of Silicol Scientific Equipment at Isranalytica 2015 looking specifically at the current data available and the design of the instrumentation on the Philae lander.

A recent issue of Journal of Chromatography A delved into the long-term stability tests performed on (and passed by) our MXT® columns to help ensure confidence that the data sent from the probe’s instrument 10 years after launch is sound.

The comet landing was even named as the Breakthrough of the Year by both Physics World and Science. Restek couldn’t be happier to be a part of this ground-breaking effort.

Whether your analysis is being done in the field, the refinery, or the farthest reaches of the solar system, our metal MXT® capillary columns are the reliable choice for great data. You can find our full selection at — to discuss how they can help with your demanding applications, contact Restek or your local Restek® representative.

Restek® MXT® Columns and the Rosetta Spacecraft Make Headlines From Space

MXT Columns in SpaceThe European Space Agency (ESA) once again made the news when, awaking after 31 months of power-conserving hibernation, its Rosetta spacecraft sent a signal from beyond Jupiter to ESA’s mission control center in Germany. Already almost 500 million miles (800 million kilometers) away from Earth, Rosetta began its journey in 2004 and, this August, will finally reach the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it will follow, study, and even land on. To accomplish its pioneering two-year research mission, Rosetta’s orbiter and lander carry a total of 21 scientific instruments, and Restek couldn’t be more proud that these instruments feature not one, but four MXT® GC columns.

Restek’s MXT® gas chromatography (GC) columns are made for environments with extreme temperatures and situations where the potential for column breakage is too high to rely on fused silica. In other words, whether your analysis is being done in the field, the refinery, or the farthest reaches of the solar system, our metal capillary columns are the reliable choice for great data. Other companies who developed products for the Rosetta mission are no longer in business, but Restek and our rugged MXT® columns are both still going strong.

According to Robert Sternberg, who was responsible for the space GC team at Laboratoire Interuniversitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques (LISA) of the University of Paris XII:

” I would like to mention that all the columns selected for space mission are Silcosteel®-treated metallic capillary columns, and they have all been submitted successfully to space qualification tests such as vibration, radiation, and thermal cycles1, which demonstrated their robustness for space application.

Since the beginning, the Restek company has been more than a manufacturer providing LISA with columns. Indeed, it has been strongly collaborating and helping LISA to develop custom-made columns able to meet the requirements of such an unusual scientific goal for chromatographic columns. That is why LISA is very grateful to Restek for being this ideal partner without the help of which the study and development of chromatographic columns for space use could not have been possible.”

You can follow the accomplishments of the Rosetta craft and its on-board MXT® columns on Twitter at @ESA_Rosetta

Visit to learn more about MXT® columns and put one to the test today.

1C. Szopa, U.J. Meierhenrich, D. Coscia, L. Janin, F. Goesmann, R. Sternberg, J.-F. Brun, G. Israel, M. Cabane, R. Roll, F. Raulin, W. Thiemann and C. Vidal-Madjar and H. Rosenbauer J. Chromatogr. A, 982 303-312 (2002)