“Good data out requires good data in”.
I have heard many versions of that phrase over the course of my career. The statement could apply to a wide range of topics; however, as a chemist, the basic premise highlights to me the importance of proper sample preparation before analysis.
Generating analytical scientific data that is accurate, precise and reproducible is not a trivial task and is dependent on many factors. The analytical workflow I’m used to following can be broken down into 4 basic steps: sample collection, sample preparation, sample analysis and data reporting.
As a chemist, I needed to follow this process, while ensuring that the analytes of interest could be measured and quantified with the sensitivity and accuracy that the application required. In other words, it was my responsibility to ensure that the stuff I was looking for could be found. The key to successful data generation was managing the challenges and pitfalls inherent within the workflow.
Based on experience, those samples or applications which posed the greatest challenges were those that required the most careful (and sometimes complicated) sample preparation. Whether I was diluting or preconcentrating the sample to adjust the analyte concentrations or removing the analytes from the sample matrix to avoid subsequent interferences, sample preparation was often the most time-consuming step in my workflow.
Thankfully I was introduced to solid phase extraction (SPE) as a sample preparation tool early on in my scientific career. SPE allowed me to separate my analytes of interest, then concentrate or dilute them into a clean matrix prior to analysis. Using 1 relatively simple process, I was able to prepare my samples such that my analytes could be quantified using the measurement technique suitable for the application.
Not familiar with solid phase extraction? Not to worry. Here’s a whiteboard video to help clarify.
Still not clear on what solid phase extraction is or what advantages it provides you with? Watch this on demand webinar – Solid Phase Extraction 101 and download this helpful infographic to learn more.