Methylmercury in water samples at the pg/L level by online preconcentration liquid chromatography cold vapor-atomic fluorescence spectrometry

Christoph-Cornelius Brombach, Bin Chen, Warren T. Corns, Joerg Feldmann, Eva M. Krupp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Ultra-traces of methylmercury at the sub-ppt level can be magnified in the foodweb and is of concern. In environmental monitoring a routine robust analytical method is needed to determine methylmercury in water. The development of an analytical method for ultra-trace speciation analysis of methylmercury (MeHg) in water samples is described. The approach is based on HPLC-CV-AFS with on-line preconcentration of water samples up to 200 mL, resulting in a detection limit of 40 pg/L (ppq) for MeHg, expressed as Hg. The unit consists of an optimized preconcentration column filled with a sulfur-based sorption material, on which mercury species are preconcentrated and subsequently eluted, separated and detected via HPLC-CV-AFS (high performance liquid chromatography-cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectrometry). During the method development a type of adsorbate material, the pH dependence, the sample load rate and the carry-over were investigated using breakthrough experiments. The method shows broad pH stability in the range of pH 0 to 7, without the need for buffer addition and shows limited matrix effects so that MeHg is quantitatively recovered from sewage, river and seawater directly in the acidified samples without sample preparation. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-108
Number of pages6
JournalSpectrochimica Acta. Part B: Atomic Spectroscopy
Early online date16 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

C.-Cornelius Brombach is grateful for financial support by PSAnalytical, Kent, UK and the College of Physical Sciences (University of Aberdeen), to carry out his PhD project.


  • methylmercury speciation
  • water
  • preconcentration
  • atomic fluorescence spectrometry
  • ultra-traces
  • exchange column preconcentration
  • mercury speciation
  • absorption-spectrometry
  • separation
  • seafood
  • hair


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