How Does Automated High-capacity Sorptive Extraction Compare to Traditional Solvent Extraction for the Preparation of Diverse Samples for GC-MS Analysis in the Field of Environmental Forensics?

Environmental Forensics
Oral Presentation

Prepared by R. Szafnauer1, E. Hachmeister2, D. Santillo3, H. Calder1
1 - Markes International, 1000B CENTRAL PARK WESTERN AVENUE, Bridgend, Non-US, CF31 3RT, United Kingdom
2 - Markes International Inc., 2355 Gold Meadow Way Gold River, Sacramento, California, 95670, United States
3 - Greenpeace Research Laboratories, Innovation Centre Phase 2 Rennes Drive University of Exeter, Exeter, Non-US, EX4 4RN, United Kingdom

Contact Information: [email protected]; 01443230935


The emergence of methods enabling rapid screening of a wide range of sample matrices for organic contaminants, is potentially a powerful and versatile development within the field of environmental forensics, whether applied to documentation of spills or other incidents or to longer-term environmental surveillance and research. Such methods provide a higher degree of automation, reduce solvent use and sample preparation times and offer the potential to work both with complex matrices and small sample volumes. They may also have application in the field of polymer and other material analysis, including for rapid assessment of additive and contaminant leaching.

Vital to the application of such developments, however, is the need to assess their comparative performance with those of more traditional solvent extraction methods used to prepare samples for chromatographic and mass spectrometric analysis, in order to understand the degree to which these very different methods yield data which are comparable (i.e. selecting for similar compound groups) or complementary (i.e. helping identify the presence of additional compounds missed through standard solvent extraction methods). Allied to these issues is the additional question of the potential utility of robust probes as integrating sampling devices for deployment in field studies.

Here we explore these various topics using examples from a diversity of ongoing research projects undertaken in parallel using a flexible, automated sample extraction and enrichment platform alongside standard liquid-liquid and liquid-solid extractions, including analysis of river and sea water, of soils and sediments, and of plastic and bioplastic packaging. It will also explore the value of the additional capability of the system in enabling the concentration and preservation – using the re-collection feature - of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds recovered from samples that are of particularly high value given the difficulties or time limitations in their collection.