Between High Analytical Demands and Green(er) Sample Preparation for A Sustainable Future
The beginning of the story on the DAC-EuChemS Sample Preparation Study Group and Network
The step of Sample Preparation is the most critical step in chemical analysis. This “nightmare” of analytical chemists has attracted the interest of experts in the field who have joined forces in the Division of Analytical Chemistry of EuChemS (DAC-EuChemS) Sample Preparation Study Group and Network. Though initially starting as a “Task Force”, it was upgraded to a “Study Group” after the annual evaluation due to its remarkable activity. Study groups are dedicated to important topics of particular importance for EuChemS-DAC, and «Sample Preparation» is now one of the eight Study Groups in this field. The DAC-EuChemS Sample Preparation Study Group and Network is divided into three working groups (WG): 1. Science and Fundamentals, 2. Automation, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 3. Information Exchange and Networking.
This scientific network is headed by Professor Elefteria Psillakis from the Technical University of Crete and currently has close to 400 members from 37 countries in Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania working in academia, research institutes, industry, and private laboratories.
The aim of the network is to promote the science of sample preparation, the facilitation of the exchange of information between research teams, the facilitation of collaborations, the linking of research with innovation, the support of young scientists and the organisation of scientific activities, such as conferences, courses, webinars, support of publications and Special Issues to disseminate new ideas in this field. More information on this action and how to become a member is available at: https://www.sampleprep.tuc.gr/en/home
The 1st European Sample Preparation Conference
The 1st European Sample Preparation Conference, organised by DAC-EuChemS Sample Preparation Study Group and Network has concluded. This March, a virtual platform was the international meeting place for researchers and practitioners from all over Europe and overseas, from academic and industrial backgrounds. With the key theme of “Green Sample Preparation”, we opened the gate for all challenging ideas, aspects, and problems in sample pre-treatment. In numbers, the impact of this conference is reflected in 3 plenary lectures, 42 oral presentations, 65 poster presentation (in 2 parallel sessions) and 309 registrations from 35 countries. Contributions from new technologies, and extraction techniques, addressing theory, methods or applications and highlights of new prospects and developments of current importance in analytical extraction and sample preparation were presented. Moreover, in the virtual area of this wonderful event, during the two days, a large pool of new results and brainstorming solutions were reported as well. All in line with the challenging times and high expectations for a “greener” future…
Green and/or sustainable – Quo vadis, dear researcher?
Let’s elaborate a bit on “greener” and more “sustainable” …
For the DAC-EuChemS Sample Preparation Study Group and Network, the annual theme of 2021 is «Green Sample Preparation», and all activities focus on this topic. This theme was chosen because Sample Preparation is central to the sustainable development concept.
Keeping in mind that our primary goal is to provide useful chemical information, sample preparation cannot be avoided entirely. As analytical chemists, we have a mission to meet high analytical criteria for good sensitivity/selectivity, reproducibility, accuracy, low detection and quantification limits and hopefully high robustness of the method we applied for the measurements. What we can do is search and apply, whenever possible, a “greener” solution. For example, how to handle all reagents, after also being used in a “green” way. If it is not green enough (the solvents, reagents, energy consumed…), let’s make it sustainable and in line with a circular economy by avoiding the generation of waste, creating the stream(s) for a new value (product and/or process) of what remained as “surplus”.
Technique, tool, procedure, or method – stay focused!
Sample preparation is still considered the bottleneck of the whole analytical process. This is not just a technical operation. Researchers need to have a strong scientific focus and always aim to describe the fundamentals behind all the methods applied. On the other side, it is not enough to develop an innovative technology. Comparing with those currently in use is of utmost importance as well as evaluating the advantages and drawbacks of various approaches, based on the “green“ profile characteristics of the procedures and the perspective of future trends.
Do we need to make our samples cleaner, to preconcentrate the analytes, or to simply reduce the environmental impact? It is amazing how the advancements in the field of sample preparation, towards more efficient, automated, and miniaturised techniques have been extraordinary.
Biological, environmental and food samples were subjected to cost-efficient sample preparation techniques for the determination of pharmaceuticals, therapeutic and illicit drugs, emerging pollutants, etc. Many novel approaches to sample pre-treatment, for clinical, toxicological studies food quality control and, possibilities for air/water/soil pollution monitoring will come to practice. A serious science, a priori knowledge and experience are needed to prepare the sample for measuring the targeted analytes.
Current practice and future perspectives
So many promising ideas in analytical extractions were presented. We are witnessing a remarkable success of ionic liquids (ILs) as excellent alternatives to traditional organic solvents, in both analytical and bioanalytical chemistry. A tailor-made approach provided them with an uncommon selectivity toward specific groups of compounds even in micro-scale extractions from different matrices. Another promising alternative includes natural deep eutectic solvents (NADESs), due to good tunability, selectivity and, very importantly, sustainability. Both, ILs and (NA)DES, have the potential to be designer solvents, have negligible toxicity, be inexpensive and present themselves as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional solvents. Moreover, nanomaterials, as renewable sorptive materials, appeared to have potential in various research areas. In addition, the wide variety of polymeric sorbents and magnetic composites offer such unique advantages over traditional silica-based sorbents in solid-phase extractions.
Many procedures were designed for full automation and were based on robust, reliable, commercially available analytical platforms, such as GC×GC-MS2 for volatiles. Miniaturised detection systems, downsized sample preparation approaches, single-drop and solvent-free (micro)extraction systems (SPM3, MDSPE4 and SPME5) for gas, liquid, and solid samples were presented. What is more, integrated sample preparation methods in analytical techniques (HPLC6, LC-MS, HILIC7, UHPLC-MS8) and applications in a wide range of analytical and bioanalytical studies were demonstrated at the highest scientific level. So much to see, listen and learn… Fantastic energy during the conference, in front and behind the stage! I mean the screen… And 100% of voluntary work from the organising team and its leader Professor Elefteria Psillakis.
All in all, this event was an intellectually rewarding meeting providing new insights and many creative ideas for the future to come. It was an excellent opportunity to share some enthusiasm in exchanging experience and ideas!
See you on the next Sample Prep Conference!
Chair of DAC-EuChemS, Professor of Analytical Chemistry, University of Belgrade
Head of EuChemS-DAC Sample Preparation Study Group and Network, Professor, Aquatic Chemistry, Technical University of Crete, School of Environmental Engineering
EuChemS-DAC Sample Preparation Study Group and Network. Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
A new series of events organised by the Food Chemistry Division
The pandemic situation changed our everyday lives and forced us to move most of in-person meetings to online platforms. Therefore, to build a virtual bridge between scientists and connect European chemists whose scientific work is dedicated to food and food-related topics, the Food Chemistry Division of the European Chemical Society (FCD-EuChemS) created a new series of events entitled “Webinar series on food chemistry”.
The 1st webinar was given on the 12 May 2021 by Dr. Reto Battaglia with a talk on: “Why should anyone need a food chemist?”. For the Food Chemistry Division, Dr. Reto Battaglia is both a highly-respected former president (1995-2000) as well as an active contributor and, to this day, a good friend. For EuChemS, he was instrumental in the transformation of its precursor FECS into EuCheMS, which later evolved into EuChemS, in his capacity as the serving President of FECS in its final period and the first “former President” of EuChemS. Dr. Battaglia began his presentation with a slide showing how chemistry has become a useful tool in food analysis over the years. Then, a few case studies on food research were presented, emphasizing the significant role played by food chemists in the improvement of the quality and safety of food. The opening session was carried out by Nineta Hrastelj, Secretary-General of EuChemS, and Joana Amaral, the Chair of FCD. The whole seminar was moderated by Hans-Jacob Skarpeid (Norwegian Chemical Society).
This event gathered more than 130 participants who were able to ask questions to Dr. Battaglia in the last part of the webinar. An event that was scheduled to last around one hour took more than one hour and a half due to numerous questions raised during the Q&A.
Furthermore, on behalf of the Organizers, we invite you to FCD-EuChemS’ next webinar, which will be held on the 17 June 2021 at 15:00 CEST. The speaker of this webinar will be Professor Dr. Doris Marko from the Department of Food Chemistry and Toxicology (University of Vienna, Austria) presenting the lecture entitled: “Emerging mycotoxins in the food chain”.
Chair of the Food Chemistry Division of the Polish Chemical Society
Secretary of the EuChemS’ Division of Food Chemistry