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What is Speciation?

Jul 24, 2019 | Archive, Speciation | 0 comments

What is SpeciationA chemical species is the specific form of an element defined as to isotopic composition, electronic or oxidation state, and/or complex or molecular structure. Speciation analysis is the analytical activities of identifying and/or measuring the quantities of one or more individual chemical species in a sample. Chemical speciation analyses have focused primarily on organic molecules (carbon based) historically, for a good reason. Who would want to eat a piece of coal instead of a nutritious apple? But what about the rest of the periodic table beyond carbon? Every element on the periodic table can exist in different molecular forms that have impact on the world around us.

Understanding the concentration and ratios of different chemical species is important for determining toxicity, mobility, bioavailability, effect on treatment options (both from a medical and industrial perspective), as well as many other characteristics. As a greater understanding emerges around the utility of speciation analyses, the idea of making important decisions with just total metals or elemental data is seen as risky and, in some cases, possibly catastrophic to the success of a project or the health of a population.

An excellent example is if a blood test shows a patient has elevated arsenic levels, then the physician may apply a treatment to get reduce the concentration of this heavy metal. Speciation analysis would have elucidated that the arsenic is in the form of arsenobetaine and the physician could have questioned the patient as to whether or not they consume a lot of fish. If that was the case, the arsenic would be excreted, naturally, from the patient’s body without deleterious effects. One approach, using total elemental analysis shows there may be a problem, while a more focused approach, speciation analysis, identifies the true risk as well as if treatment is required. Imagine if this example is applied to treating groundwater, making pharmaceuticals products better, altering mining practices, or finding out why an industrial process succeeded or failed.

One of the greatest challenges with speciation analyses is that there are very few standardized methods that exist. And, the ones that do exist are mostly based on older technologies and have not kept up with the times. Over the years, Brooks Applied Labs has continued to invest in-house R&D to generate an abundance of new analytical speciation methods spanning much of the periodic table. Bringing advanced analytical technologies to the commercial marketplace requires a deep understanding of the science as well as robust quality systems to ensure maximum defensibility of results.

At Brooks Applied Labs, you will find the most advanced speciation capabilities for the greatest number of metals and elements on the periodic table available in any industry. Visit our speciation page for more details.