Laboratory for Materials Research and Chemical Analysis

Analytical methods for water and materials research

The Laboratory for Materials Research and Chemical Analysis at KWR (NEN-EN-ISO/IEC 17025 en NEN-EN-ISO/IEC 17043 accredited, registration numbers respectively L479 en R005) conducts research into pollutants present in water and their impact on water quality. The laboratory’s core activities cover:

Analysing chemical water quality

We analyse the organic and inorganic components that can be present in different types of water. Our experts conduct the following analyses:

  • Specialty analyses, including difficult-to-measure compounds and particles
  • R&D – development of new test methods
  • Proficiency testing: a component of the quality assurance
  • Emergencies: if rapid analyses are needed to quickly assess dangers of water contamination.

Specialty analyses

KWR currently carries out more than 50 measurements on emerging and already known contaminants, such as drugs, PFAS, pharmaceuticals, plant protection products, indicator compounds and sweeteners. The Laboratory for Materials Research and Chemical Analysis is equipped with advanced instruments. For example, we measure nano- and microplastics using thermogravimetric analysis coupled with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (TGA-GC-MS), Laser Direct InfraRed (LDIR) chemical imaging, and asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4). The information these analyses provide includes data on the amount and type of plastic particles present in the water.

Drugs, PFAS and pharmaceuticals, such as antibiotics, are analysed using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS). This technique is also used alongside non-target screening to analyse ‘unknown unknowns’, that is, compounds whose presence we do not anticipate in the water.

Other specialty analyses that we conduct include the analysis of the difficult-to-measure highly polar and mobile compounds (non-target screening and target-compound analysis of cyanuric acid, dichloroacetic acid, ethyl sulphate, perchlorate, sulfamic acid, F3-MSA, Cl2-MSA, Br2-MSA), indicator compounds and sweeteners. Volatile compounds are measured using gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS). Hormone disrupting substances are measured, among others, using bioassays, and the presence of metals in water samples is determined through inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). We also carry out particle counts, both on-site and in the lab.

Besides the chemical analysis of water samples, we also conduct organoleptic assessments for taste and odour tests through panel testing. Moreover, we investigate synthetic products, such as pipe materials, that come into contact with water.

Research & Development

Clients can also come to us with questions about non-standard analyses. Apart from our specialty analyses, the laboratory can also develop new analytical methods, making it possible to analyse compounds for which no standard method yet exists. Examples of compounds for which we have successfully developed such methods include antibiotics (for example, procaine, sulfadiazine, ampicillin and meropenem); plant protection products (for example, bromacil, carbendazim, phthalimide and imidacloprid); indicator compounds (for example, paracetamol, gabapentine and benzotriazols); pharmaceutical residues (for example, desogestrel, carbamazepine and metformin); and various other compounds such as acrylamide and melamine.

Proficiency testing

The laboratory also organises organic and inorganic proficiency testing in drinking, surface, ground, waste and / or swimming water.  Furthermore, we can organise a specific proficiency test. Besides the organisation of this testing, we also offer data processing and reporting, both nationally and internationally.

Action during crises

Whenever the drinking water is exposed to possible danger as a result of an emergency, our experts are immediately ready to respond and the chemical laboratory can conduct rapid analyses. The laboratory can also conduct specialty analyses in emergency situations. It is part of the national crisis organisation, including the National Laboratory Network for Terrorism Incidents (LLN-ta). Together with other laboratories, KWR provides the analytical capacity for questions related to terror threats or attacks, in which Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear agents play a role.