Emissions analytics

Silver sample containers for headspace analysis

How is aroma released from foods? Which odors of products are generated through processing or arise during storage? Where does the characteristic odor of specific materials come from? The analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can aid in optimizing the sensory properties of products or in minimizing emissions that are potentially harmful to human health.

We investigate and characterize the emission of VOCs from a wide variety of products and (raw) materials. We tailor our analytical methods to the products and challenges of individual customers. We analyze the typical composition and patterns of VOCs from diverse sources such as biogenic raw materials, foods, plastics, consumer products, and waste. This provides us with important information about the presence or formation of chemical substances – both desirable and undesirable – that can aid in developing measures to prevent or promote specific substances.

Our services in the field of VOC analytics

Aroma release from foods

During consumption, food releases odor-active VOCs (aromas) that determine its overall sensory impression. We investigate aroma release mechanisms and optimize food matrices for desired aromas.

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Spoilage markers and shelf-life

We identify volatile markers to indicate the spoilage of food products. We consider the factors that influence shelf-life, such as the packaging and storage conditions, and determine the formation and degradation of these substances.

Indoor emissions

VOCs analyses allow us to characterize emissions in indoor environments (e.g. relating to vehicle indoor air quality, or VIAQ) and to develop strategies to reduce undesired odors or harmful substances that potentially impact health.

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Emissions from materials

Many raw or processed materials do not meet the quality criteria of the food and packaging industries. We identify off-odors and develop methods for removing volatile contaminants.

Pharmacokinetics of metabolites

Volatile metabolites that are expelled from the human body as excretion products can carry important information about metabolism, for example, of pharmaceuticals. We can monitor exogenous substances in exhaled breath and/or urine for pharmacokinetics applications.

Bespoke method development

VOCs analyses provides valuable information for a wide variety of end-uses. Our multidisciplinary team develops bespoke methods that are precisely adapted to your products and specific requirements.

Characterization, monitoring, and optimization of odorants

Our methods for the analysis of aroma-active compounds

The characterization of odorants is performed using gas chromatography-olfactometry (GC-O) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS). The use of GC-O enables clear distinction between odorous substances, including off-odors, and non-odorous substances. The analysis also enables direct comparison of different samples and identification of undesired components.

The identification of odorous trace components is performed using high performance two-dimensional GC-O/MS. Here the odorous substances are separated on two coupled GC columns and then analyzed by a mass spectrometer. The odor quality is also evaluated at an odor detection port by highly trained sensory specialists.

The resulting instrumental-chemical information is then compared with the human-sensory evaluations to ensure that all off-odors are identified.

Studying dynamic processes in real-time

The technique of proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) - often coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-TOF-MS) - is regularly employed for the real-time analysis and quantitation of VOCs. The PTR-MS method allows small changes in the concentration of VOCs to be monitored down to ultra-trace levels. Real-time analysis is vital because important emissions processes are often transient, for example, mechanical or enzymatic processes associated with mastication. We use PTR-MS for both in vivo analyses (e.g. nosespace analysis) and in vitro analyses (e.g. headspace analysis).

Further information about our PTR-MS instrumentation

Extensive analytical instrumentation

In addition to PTR-MS, ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) and other advanced two-dimensional thermal desorption (TD)GCxGC-MS systems are used for analyzing VOCs. This enables the characterization of VOCs with a high resolution. Gas samples can be collected on sorbent tubes (e.g. Tenax) using a micro-chamber/thermal extractor, with subsequent analysis by GC-MS following thermal desorption.

Information about our analytical equipment

Two scientists examine the results of the PTR-MS analysis on screen
Real-time analysis provides information on the emissions kinetics of targeted volatile compounds.
Labelled vials for headspace analysis in holder
The VOC composition of a wide variety of products can be determined via non-destructive headspace analysis.
A hand puts a green round plastic toy into a microchamber for analysis
Emissions from consumer products, foods, and (raw) materials at different temperatures can be characterized using a micro-chamber/thermal extractor system.

Research projects

  • Research project - analytic of emissions of proximal commodities
  • Early detection of colorectal cancer – ABC Cancer