Analytical chemistry, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, water samples, gold nanoparticles, solid phase nanoextraction, laser excited time resolved shpol'skii spectroscopy, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry


This dissertation focuses on the development of analytical methodology for the analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in water samples. Chemical analysis of PAHs is of great environmental and toxicological importance. Many of them are highly suspect as etiological agents in human cancer. Among the hundreds of PAHs present in the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists sixteen as "Consent Decree" priority pollutants. Their routine monitoring in environmental samples is recommended to prevent human contamination risks. A primary route of human exposure to PAHs is the ingestion of contaminated water. The rather low PAH concentrations in water samples make the analysis of the sixteen priority pollutants particularly challenging. Current EPA methodology follows the classical pattern of sample extraction and chromatographic analysis. The method of choice for PAHs extraction and pre-concentration is solid-phase extraction (SPE). PAHs determination is carried out via high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) or gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). When HPLC is applied to highly complex samples, EPA recommends the use of GC/MS to verify compound identification and to check peak-purity of HPLC fractions. Although EPA methodology provides reliable data, the routine monitoring of numerous samples via fast, cost effective and environmentally friendly methods remains an analytical challenge. Typically, 1 L of water is processed through the SPE device in approximately 1 h. The rather large water volume and long sample processing time are recommended to reach detectable concentrations and quantitative removal of PAHs from water samples. Chromatographic elution times of 30 - 60 min are typical and standards must be run periodically to verify retention times. If concentrations of targeted PAHs are found to lie outside the detector's response range, the sample must be diluted (or concentrated), and the process repeated. In order to prevent environmental risks and human contamination, the routine monitoring of the sixteen EPA-PAHs is not sufficient anymore. Recent toxicological studies attribute a significant portion of the biological activity of PAH contaminated samples to the presence of high molecular weight (HMW) PAHs, i.e. PAHs with MW ≥ 300. Because the carcinogenic properties of HMW-PAHs differ significantly from isomer to isomer, it is of paramount importance to determine the most toxic isomers even if they are present at much lower concentrations than their less toxic isomers. Unfortunately, established methodology cannot always meet the challenge of specifically analyzing HMW-PAHs at the low concentration levels of environmental samples. The main problems that confront classic methodology arise from the relatively low concentration levels and the large number of structural isomers with very similar elution times and similar, possibly even virtually identical, fragmentation patterns. This dissertation summarizes significant improvements on various fronts. Its first original component deals with the unambiguous determination of four HMW-PAHs via laser-excited time-resolved Shpol'skii spectroscopy (LETRSS) without previous chromatographic separation. The second original component is the improvement of a relatively new PAH extraction method - solid-phase nanoextraction (SPNE) - which uses gold nanoparticles as extracting material for PAHs. The advantages of the improved SPNE procedure are demonstrated for the analysis of EPA-PAHs and HMW-PAHs in water samples via GC/MS and LETRSS, respectively.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date





Campiglia, Andres


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

August 2014

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic

Included in

Chemistry Commons