Using Digesters for Environmental Analysis

There are various logistical barriers to environmental analysis. Let us use sediments and soils as an example. Soil contamination is a complex issue with far-reaching implications for human and environmental health. It concerns the pollution of land by both organic and inorganic contaminants, which can be detected and quantified using various chemical techniques coupled with analytical techniques such as gas chromatography (GC), atomic absorption spectrometry (AES), and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The difficulty therein lies with successfully extracting each contaminant from the raw sample to guarantee that results are indicative of the actual polluted environment. This is where digesters come into play.  

Digesters for Contaminant Extraction

Raw samples, in this case, a sediment or soil extract, must be broken down by digestion in order to release all the compounds of interest from their physical matrices. The goal is to deliver a homogenous sample that is chemically representative of the original structure, but poor efficiency in digestion methods means that total contaminant recovery is not always guaranteed. Various regulatory bodies have established guidelines for optimal digestion processes for environmental analysis applications.

Analysts looking to extract heavy metals and other toxins from sediments, soils, sludges, and oils  might use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) method 3051A. Yet the documentation itself admits that “the extracted analyte concentrations may not reflect the total content in the sample”. While it is impossible to guarantee complete recovery at all times, it is clear that a concerted push towards greater efficiency in extraction processes is vital as we focus our attention on more precise environmental analyses.

Though we have only focussed on soil samples here, these same principles apply to all environmental samples, including aqueous materials and siliceous matrices.

ColdBlock Digesters in Environmental Analysis

ColdBlock digestion is a disruptive sample extraction technology that champions greater efficiency in terms of both contaminant recovery and experiment throughput. Researchers can rely on thenovel infrared heating system coupled with an upper cooling zone to rapidly break down complex samples and retain a high degree of analyte representation. Though it is difficult to offer comparative recovery rates, given that experiment parameters are specific to sample types and materials of interest, the ColdBlock method is extremely accurate and precise, and has already been utilized in the extraction of toxic heavy metals from soil and sediment samples.

If you are looking for an efficient digester that can improve your sample extraction protocols for environmental screening, why not contact a member of the ColdBlock team today?