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A newly published review reveals insights into the history of capillary electrophoresis, from its development to its current state-of-the-art applications, through a comprehensive bibliometric analysis of publications between 1980 and 2021.
A new study published in TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry has used bibliometric methods to explore the history and current state of capillary electrophoresis (CE), a family of analytical separation techniques widely used in a variety of fields, from clinical to genomics (1). The analysis, led by Magnus Palmblad of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, found that the field has matured over the past three decades, with research efforts moving from separations to quantitative measurements to biomedical applications.
CE is an analytical technique used to separate and analyze charged molecules in a solution. It works by applying an electric field to a capillary tube filled with a buffer solution, which separates the molecules based on their charge and size. The separated molecules are then detected and analyzed using various detection methods such as ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectrophotometry, fluorescence (FL), or mass spectrometry (MS). CE is a highly efficient and sensitive technique, with the ability to separate and analyze a wide range of molecules including amino acids, nucleotides, proteins, and carbohydrates. It has wide applications in various fields such as biomedical research, drug development, environmental monitoring, and food analysis.
The study analyzed publications on CE between 1980 and 2021 and identified 416 prolific researchers connected in a single, large co-authorship network, with a few pioneers having remained active throughout much of this time period. The analysis also revealed electrochemistry, sensors, nanotechnology, and metabolomics as “hot” topics, with fundamental method development being more “mature.”
The citation patterns showed the strongest coupling between journals of similar scope, indicating that researchers tend to publish in journals that focus on topics relevant to their work. The authors note that the interactive versions of the bibliometric network visualizations are available online for further exploration.
Capillary electrophoresis has been extensively reviewed in recent years, but this study provides a unique perspective on the field's evolution and key research topics. The findings could be useful for researchers seeking to identify fruitful areas for future investigation or for policymakers interested in understanding the state of the field and its potential applications.
The study's authors conclude that bibliometric analysis can provide valuable insights into the history and current state of a field, and they encourage further studies using this approach. They note that while bibliometric analysis has limitations, including the fact that it is based solely on published work, it can provide a useful complement to other forms of analysis.
Overall, the study highlights the importance of capillary electrophoresis in a wide range of fields and provides a roadmap for future research efforts in this area. With the field continuing to evolve, it will be interesting to see how capillary electrophoresis is used in the years to come.
(1) Palmblad, M.; Van Eck, N. J.; Bergquist, J. Capillary electrophoresis - A bibliometric analysis. Trends Analyt Chem 2023, 159, 116899. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trac.2022.116899