Celebrating Roy Lautamo: A “Giant” of GC Column Technology Development


Roy Lautamo was a genius in the gas chromatography (GC) industry, responsible for numerous technical advancements. Here, we remember his storied career and accomplishments.

Image of Roy Lautamo

Image of Roy Lautamo

It is with profound sadness that the editorial staff at LCGC International announce the passing of Roy Lautamo, a cherished friend and esteemed developer of gas chromatography column technology, who succumbed to a heroic battle with thyroid cancer on May 13, 2024. Lautamo was 70 years old.

For those fortunate enough to have worked with Lautamo and those who never had the pleasure, he was a genius in the gas chromatography (GC) industry, responsible for numerous technical advancements. Quiet and soft-spoken, Lautamo shunned the limelight, embodying the essence of a modern-day Leonardo Da Vinci with his love for hang-gliding and powerless flight. Lautamo's artistic talent paralleled his scientific ingenuity, a rare combination that made him quite a remarkable individual.

Lautamo's entry into the GC field was serendipitous. Answering an advertisement at California State University (CSU)-Sacramento, he began his career as a chemist for a fledgling company in Walt Jennings' garage, which was to become J & W Scientific, in 1977. From this humble beginning as one of the first employees, Lautamo became a pioneer in GC Research & Development for over four decades. Together with his colleagues at J & W, Lautamo developed stationary phases covalently bonded to glass capillary columns, initiating the well-known “dura-bond” (DB) columns. This was a significant improvement over previous dynamically coated silicone GC columns that often washed away with large solvent injections.

Lautamo quickly recognized the critical importance of surface chemistry in bonded-stationary phase development. During the 1980s, many scientists, both in academia and industry, shared this belief, leading to significant GC column advances. One such advancement was the hydrosilane-containing deactivation pioneered at BYU by Milton L. Lee, Karin Markides, and others. This work laid the foundation for modern deactivation techniques. Lautamo further refined this science, leading to a patent at Agilent in the early 2000s. His continued improvements in deactivation techniques culminated in the RXI-technology in 2005, developed in collaboration with Shawn Reese at Restek West.

In the mid-1990s, Lautamo and Reese created several “in-the-backbone” derivatized arylene stationary phases at J & W Scientific, coinciding with the advent of bench-top mass spectrometer (MS) detectors. These advancements significantly enhanced the detection of low-level trace analytes by reducing stationary phase decomposition. This pioneering work was first presented at Pittcon in 1995, leading to the “XLB” phase columns, which many commercial companies subsequently emulated.

Lautamo joined Restek in 2005, contributing to the GC column research facility in Sacramento, CA, alongside Shawn Reese and Bill Bromps. The chemistries developed during this time, including the “Rxi” capillary column line and PLOT column chemistry, solidified Restek's capillary column expertise and industry leadership. By the late 2000s, Agilent employees acknowledged Restek as the technology leader in capillary GC chromatography, a testament to Lautamo's and his co-workers' efforts and dedication. Lautamo retired in 2019 upon the closure of Restek West.

Lautamo's passions extended beyond his professional achievements. He cherished hang-gliding and other hobbies along with his family. Lautamo is survived by his daughters, Molly and Amy, his wife Patty, and their two grandchildren. His legacy will live on in the GC industry and in the hearts of those who knew him well. In Lautamo's honor, his colleagues will cheerfully raise a glass and celebrate Lautamo, as a quiet legend of GC columns, and as a prodigious contributor to the science of gas chromatography.


(1) This obituary was composed with contributions from Gary Stidsen and Shawn Reese.

(2) Photo courtesy of https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/sacbee/name/roy-lautamo-obituary?id=55420701 (accessed 2024-07-09)

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