So...you know how my mercury analyzer wasn't working? Well, I have a method on the MS to run mercury. It isn't as good, but it works well enough so I had a way to run my samples. Unfortunately, before I could get the DMA fixed, the MS decided not to play nice anymore.
When I start the instrument up in the morning I do what's called tuning. I put a special solution into the machine and I check the counts per second (cps) of two masses, and if they are above 500, I am good to go and I go ahead and get to work.
Usually if the cps is too low, it means something's dirty, so as it was getting lower and lower last week, every day I would try cleaning a new part or replacing new tubing. But every day the counts just kept going down...frustrating. Finally they were down around 200 (no good!) so I decided to dig a little deeper and clean the lenses. I did, and when I reinstalled them, the counts had dropped even lower-down to 50! So, yeah. Not working. For one thing, it turned out that I had put the lenses back together wrong, even after I took a picture of how they were oriented so I would make sure I got it right:
At least I figured out why the lenses weren't working...thank goodness for instruction manuals!
Nerdy aside: The reason these lenses are cool is that they aren't glass or crystal lenses like you normally think of lenses. They're made of metal and they focus magnetically. COOL.
So last Monday morning I called Agilent and told them what was going on, and they treated me like a moron as usual, but the technician suspected that the cones were bad, so I should replace them...but I had pulled them out earlier and examined them and they looked totally fine to me, so I insisted that that wasn't the problem. We argued a bit and in the end we decided that they should send a technician out to take a look. They said they would put in my request and have the local office call me to set up an appointment. So I waited. And waited.
Now, it's frustrating because Milestone, the company that services our DMA, always calls me back within an hour, and so they totally spoil me, and then when I have to wait ALL DAY for someone to call me back it makes me a bit grumpy. I called them again and asked to make sure the service request went through, and they were rude to me and said that they would call me...so I kept waiting.
Finally in the morning, when my boss got in, I asked him if he could use a little of his managerial influence to get them to speed the process up a bit. He decided to skip the main office and just e-mail Terry, the dude who usually comes to fix the MS, and who is also very good about checking his e-mail often. But once he e-mailed him...we waited.
Finally, at about 3:00, he e-mailed back to say...
...he was in JAPAN. And he must have been insane, because he was checking his e-mail at 5 a.m.
So I had to keep waiting for the Agilent local office to call me. I have a sneaking suspicion that Terry got ahold of them and made them call me, because I got their call about half an hour after we got that e-mail.
At this point, Dennis (nice guy) called me and we talked all about all the things the isntrument was doing, and he kept saying that the cones were most likely the culprit, so of course I was all like, "I don't think so, because I looked at them and they totally looked fine". But he insisted on sending me new cones instead of coming out to take a look himself, and what do you know, replacing the cones fixed the problem, and so here are my pretty shiny new ones:
And I feel like an idiot because apparently I don't know how to tell if the cones go bad, and that was the problem all along. Suck.
The people over at Agilent are probably like, "This girl is sooooo dumb!", and that's why they talk to me like I'm an idiot when I call them.