Organic Analysis

This analytical section possesses the capability to analyse a wide range of organic compounds from a variety of applied research projects and industrial processes.

Compounds include;

  • Biologically derived organics (such as phospholipid fatty acids [PLFAs] organic acids, pigments, alkanes and amino acids etc)

  • Petroleum industry derived organics (crude hydrocarbons, refined oils, production chemicals and petrochemicals)

  • Environmental impairing compounds (such as aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, poly-chlorinated biphenyls, organic pesticides and halogenated solvents)

  • Foodstuff additives (such as preservatives, dyes, flavour enhancers and process contaminants)


The biological compounds can be thought of as bio-markers for the presence of living organisms, and can be used to elucidate the biological activity in the environment. For example, PLFA analysis can be used to investigate the bacterial and fungal populations of soils, while pigment composition analysis such as chlorophyll can provide information on the phytoplankton biomass in waters.

The characterisation and composition of oilfield compounds and materials provides essential data for effective reservoir management, production process optimisation and infra-structure integrity protection.

The determination and classification of a range of organic contaminants used in industrial processes (such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs], polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], polybrominated diphenyl ethers [PBDEs], persistent organic pollutants [POPs] and endocrine disrupting chemicals [EDCs] etc.) is essential to ensure environmental regulation compliance. In recent years, global concerns have been raised over the man-made organic pollutants especially those which are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. These chemicals can exert profound and deleterious effects on wildlife populations and human health (e.g. interfere with the endocrine system). Ongoing research at the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute is aimed at characterization of these compounds with a view to better understand the occurrence, distribution, source, transport, fate and health effects in an environmental context.

The determination of organic additives in foodstuffs helps manufacturers optimise their processes, meet their regulatory obligations and satisfy their customers’ quality requirements.


We have the capacity to determine the above mentioned organic compounds found in a wide variety of sample types from hydrocarbons and their derivatives, process chemicals, waters, soils, sediments, waste materials and effluents, sewage sludge, plant and biological materials etc. Also, we are continually developing new analytical methods and techniques for emerging and new organic compounds particularly in complex industrial processes and environmental matrices.

This section is equipped with two high performance liquid chromatographs (HPLC) and eight gas chromatographs (GC), of which four are linked to mass spectrometers (MS) and the others are linked to electron capture or flame ionisation detectors (ECD/FID). Ancillary equipment includes Solid Phase Extraction (SPE), Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE), Static Headspace Sampler (SHS), Soxhlet Extraction (SE) and Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC) for sample extraction and clean-up. All of the above facilities allow quantification and identification of organic compounds in multi-matrices.

Instrumentation available

  • Thermo Trace DSQ and Trace MS GC-MS
  • Two Agilent Series 1100 HPLC systems
  • Two Agilent 6890N GC-FID
  • Two HP 5890 GC-ECD/FID
  • Two Agilent GC-MS Systems

Zulin ZhangFor more information about the work in this section contact:

Zulin Zhang
Tel: +44 (0) 1224 395124

James Hutton Limited, Dundee: Invergowrie Dundee DD2 5DA Scotland +44 (0)1382 568 568 

James Hutton Limited, Aberdeen: Craigiebuckler Aberdeen AB15 8QH Scotland +44 (0)8449 285 428