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Mobile lab speeds up chemical identification

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The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CTDEP) mobile lab has used Cerno Bioscience’s MassWorks software to improve the speed and accuracy with which it can identfy unknown chemical compounds by GC/MS, in time-critical environmental and homeland security incidents.  

Results of a study were recently presented at the 2008 OnSite meeting for Homeland Security, Forensics, and Environmental Remediation in Baltimore, MD.  The approach uses Cerno’s Massworks CLIPS (Calibrated Line-shape Isotope Profile Search) to provide accurate formula ID of unknowns.  This is used as complementary information to improve the accuracy of established EPA methods which use digital library searches.  This method could lead to more accurate and timely information for incident commanders in emergencies.

GC/MS is the tool of choice for the rapid identification of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds.  Standard EPA methods cover the identification of over 200 compounds of environmental concern and this new method provides extremely sensitive and accurate identification of these compounds.  However, for compounds that are not characterised by this method, a significant uncertainty can exist when using GC/MS library search routines for identification.  The development of improved methods for rapid unknown compound ID could be beneficial for first responder situations.