Amines in Shanghai – a new quantitative analysis

Amines are (usually smelly) organic compounds that contain a basic nitrogen atom bearing a lone electron pair. They are often used in solvents and reagents, which causes them to be released to the atmosphere. Atmospheric amines may be dangerous for several reasons;

  • Oxidation of amines can result in some highly carcinogenic compounds
  • The release of amines to the air can alter the nitrogen cycle
  • Amines can contribute to chemical processes, including nucleation and the formation of aerosols, which can affect the water cycle by generating rain in unexpected locations

Structure of ethylamine (image by @moleculd, http://twitter.com/moleculd)

Thus, it is important that we can rely on effective ways of measuring the concentration of amines in the atmosphere. In this paper developed by chemists and engineers at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, the authors optimize a new quantitative analysis of aliphatic amines found in urban samples. To do so, these researchers have created a novel on-line derivatization of amines that transforms them into highly fluorescent molecules that can be separated and analyzed by HPLC.

This new method simplifies the experimental efforts normally required by offline derivatizations. The authors also demonstrated, using different concentrations of certified standards, that the method is statistically accurate. In addition, the procedure is very sensitive, reaching detection limits of 1 microgram per liter (ppb) for all the aliphatic amines that were analyzed.

Pollution over Shanghai (picture by Peter Dowley, https://www.flickr.com/people/40271931@N00)

Finally, it is worth highlighting that, using their own novel method, the authors have been the first to detect and quantify the seasonal variation of aliphatic amines in the pollution-fog over Shanghai. They have proved that these organic molecules are more abundant during the summer. Could this have any implications on local weather?

Interested in this research? Click on the link below to read the full article for free*

Quantitative analysis of aliphatic amines in urban aerosols based on online derivatization and high performance liquid chromatography.
X. Huang, C. Deng, G. Zhuang, J. Lin, and M. Xiao.
Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2016, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C6EM00197A

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About the webwriter

Fernando Gomollón-Bel is a PhD Student at the ISQCH (CSICUniversity of Zaragoza). His research focuses on asymmetric organic synthesis using sugars as chiral-pool starting materials towards the production of fungical transglycosidase inhibitors.

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*Access is free until 12/07/2016 through a registered publishing personal account.

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