Common Mistakes by the Lab Series: The Pain of Contaminated Squeeze Bottles

Ugh…I think we can all agree that the worst thing that can happen when testing high profile samples is losing an extract due to phthalate contamination.  Whether you are extracting 525.2 or 625.1 samples, phthalates can ruin your day and wreak great havoc, causing false positives!  We wonder where they all come from and how they got in the extract in the first place because we try our best to make sure our lab supplies and instruments are clean.  As we all know though…phthalates are literally everywhere floating around in the air and settling on surfaces.  However, I am here to talk about one place in particular: solvent squeeze bottles.  We take extra precautions when refilling our squeeze bottles, but there is always the potential of introducing phthalates into them if they are not refilled or used properly.

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How to plan for dirty samples for both extraction and analysis

When juggling the responsibilities of working in a sample preparation lab as well as working as an analyst, it is very easy to get caught up in a never-ending cycle of samples. There is no situation “more frustrating” then when you have a bunch of wastewater samples that need to be extracted and analyzed ASAP and there is that one sample that is so much more challenging to extract than the others. After struggling all-day-long, you finally get the batch of rush samples set up to run on your gas chromatography (GC) system overnight only to come in the next morning to find that your mid and closing check standards are low and the data is effectively useless!

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Myth Busters: Smaller Sample Volumes

EPA Method 1664B

Have you ever had days of extracting oil and grease samples and thought to yourself “there must be an easier way to work with wastewater samples”? Whether you run oil and grease samples by liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) or by solid-phase extraction (SPE) it can be challenging at times to efficiently extract 1-liter samples due to the sample matrix. Wastewater is challenging and can be very complicated and contain many types of particulates and or detergents. The makeup of the sample not only interferes with efficient extractions due to matrix issues (such as emulsions) but can also cause slow flow rates.

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Simplifying Water Extractions with SPE – One Matrix, One Method Extraction

Have you ever thought to yourself I wish there was one way to effectively extract all of our aqueous samples?  For instance, there are several methods available to extract aqueous samples, such as extraction method 3510 liquid-liquid extraction (LLE), method 3520 continuous liquid-liquid extraction (CLLE), and method 3535 solid-phase extraction (SPE).  Wouldn’t it be more convenient to use one extraction method within the lab for most if not all of your aqueous extractions?

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Overcoming drying and concentrating bottlenecks in the lab

Working in an environmental lab requires a lot of concentration, both mentally and for the samples that you are working with. When New England finally begins to thaw and local companies rush to get their samples completed, a bottleneck that is usually experienced is the drying and concentration of so many samples.  This bottleneck is partly due to ensuring that samples are extracted within their holding times. There have been many times I have had to multitask while concentrating samples on the TurboVap® classic, leading to some extra work when that rare sample was overconcentrated.  Many of my past coworkers brought up the challenge they faced with the extraction of water and soils. In my opinion, the bigger issue was drying and concentrating.  My main complaint with these steps was it was never efficient enough and I always had to baby each step so that all of my hard work (shaking the sample) did not go to waste.  What I strived for most in the lab was an efficient and streamlined workflow for this part of the process.

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Reusable vs single-use disk holders – Which is best-suited for your application?

Have you ever thought to yourself am I using the best solid phase extraction disk offering for my application? Or can our prep lab turn samples around more efficiently if we choose a different SPE disk platform such as a single-use disk holder instead of cleaning our reusable holders? Those are just a few questions I receive when working with sample prep solutions with customers when SPE disks are brought up in the conversion.

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Are Your Proficiency Testing Results Failing for EPA Method 1664 with SPE?

It is that time of year again when laboratories are fulfilling accreditation requirements for the methods that they offer. One of the requirements that must be met for each method is called proficiency testing (PT). If you are not familiar with proficiency testing, it is a sample purchased from an approved vendor to evaluate the ability of a lab to meet the acceptance criteria of the method.  If the labs’ results are out of the PT samples acceptance criteria, they can redo the testing.

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Tackling Emulsions Just Got Easier

Believe it or not, we’re all familiar with emulsions.  Have you ever added food oil to a pot of water while cooking?  That’s an emulsion.  Do you put dressing on your salad?  It should be called salad emulsion – although, that may not have the same edible appeal.  Do you drink milk?  Emulsion.  What about milk?  Butter?  Eggs?  All emulsions.

If we’re referring to emulsions in the laboratory, the examples are different, but the chemistry involved is very similar – as are the mechanisms for breaking them. Continue reading Tackling Emulsions Just Got Easier

SLE, SPE and LLE – How are Those Different?

Liquid-liquid extraction (LLE), supported liquid extraction (SLE), and solid-phase extraction (SPE) have existed for decades and if you’re doing organic sample preparation, you’re probably quite familiar with at least one of these techniques.  But are you familiar with all of them?  How are they similar?  How are they different?  Let’s review! Continue reading SLE, SPE and LLE – How are Those Different?

Spooky Stories or Laboratory Mishaps?

“There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch.” – Robert Brault

It’s Halloween!  I assume you’ve carefully assembled your favorite movie character, comic book superhero or animal costume for a night of spooky fun.  If you’re me, this is the day you get to wear your superhero cape out in public.  As an applications chemist, I consider myself to be a bit of a superhero – but a humble one, as I wear my cape underneath my t-shirt and lab coat.  I consider myself to be a superhero when I’m able to use my background and my experiences to think quickly on my feet and help troubleshoot challenges that chemists face all the time.  It’s one of the best parts of my job and I’m thrilled each time I get to wear my cape – metaphorically speaking.

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