Environmental Mass Spectrometry


The mass spectrometer is the most widely accepted detector for environmental analysis. Methods based on mass spectrometry are among the most powerful, sensitive, and reliable available for water science research. New methods are continually developed to take advantage of improvements in sample extraction techniques and instrument interfaces. Gas and liquid chromatography have been the most common mass spectrometer interfaces used for environmental methods. These methods are especially useful for research directed toward understanding the fate of environmental contaminants found in water and soils. Some of the compounds that can be analyzed by environmental mass spectrometry include:

  • Pesticides and their transformation products
  • Gasoline additives
  • Disinfection by-products
  • Pharmaceutical compounds, including antibiotics and other drugs
  • Explosives, such as RDX and TNT, and their transformation products
  • Endocrine disrupting compounds, including hormones, surfactants, and plasticizers
  • Naturally occurring organics including algal toxins and odor-causing compounds
  • Biomarkers, or compounds characteristic of certain microorganisms

Equipment Used for Environmental Mass Spectrometry Includes:

  • Hewlett Packard 5973 Gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) with EI/CI source and CombiPAL automated extraction system and OI 4551 Purge and Trap Autosampler
  • Hewlett Packard 5972 Gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS)
  • Thermofinnigan LCQ Ion trap Liquid chromatograph/mass spectrometer system (LC/MS/MS) with IN/US radioactivity detector for labelled compound analysis
  • Micromass Quattro Micro triple quadrupole Liquid chromatograph/mass spectrometer system (LC/MS/MS) with Spark Holland Symbiosys Environ automated extraction system

WSL Equipment

The GC/MS systems are useful for volatile organic compounds such as pesticides, gasoline oxygenates, and algal metabolites. The newer LC/MS/MS systems are state-of-the-art instruments for sensitive and selective analysis of more polar, water soluble organics such as explosives, pharmaceuticals, and surfactants.

Contact Dan Snow (402-472-7539) if you have questions about sample requirements or other types of analysis that are not listed here.