New chemical analysis methods

The world around us is changing rapidly and new techniques emerge regularly. The ongoing assessment of detection technologies (instrumental and otherwise) makes it possible to identify their possible value for the water sector in good time.

BTO studies have therefore been monitoring developments in analytical chemistry since 2015. This project looked at two techniques. First of all, a technique (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)) will be assessed that can help identify unknown compounds and that can be used to complement mass spectrometry. Secondly, the project will look at whether one of the two promising MS ionisation techniques – Surface Assisted Wave Nebulisation (SAWN) or Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) – which have been explored in the MSII project (400554/179/002) can be further tested (in combination with ion mobility spectrometry (IMS)). A total of five unknown substances that were found in two samples of Meuse water were selected to test these techniques.

In this study, IMS did not deliver any clear added value. However, if IMS and the associated databases are developed further, the technique could be a useful addition in the years ahead to the tools and work flows used in the water sector to identify unknown substances. NMR, an expensive option, often provided more additional information. However, because of the intense matrix background, it often failed to come up with an unambiguous structure. The improved treatment of extracts in the future means that NMR has the most potential to identify unknown substances in the water cycle unambiguously.