Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory

Mass Spectrometry Facility at Penn State

The Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory is a mass spectrometry facility at Penn State. It offers high-resolution mass spectrometry services through a variety of equipment, including liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LCMS) and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS). Materials available for analysis include agricultural chemicals, emerging contaminants, pharmaceuticals, plastics, hydrocarbons, pigments, fragrances, and flavor compounds. The lab measures organic molecules, concentrations, and compositions in all sorts of matricies, including water.

The lab's skilled technicians have worked with a wide range of clients with diverse needs including:

  • Petroleum fingerprinting and oil-spill forensics
  • Microplastic materials characterization
  • Archaeology and Art History, such as pigment, ink, and paper characterization
  • Hormones in aquatic environments
  • Food Science: flame retardants in fish
  • Explosives residues in fingerprints
  • Drugs on currency
  • Trace petroleum hydrocarbons in deep-sea sediments
  • Experimental biodegradation products of coal, dibenzothiophenes, and crude oil
  • Aldehydes in drinking water and in microbial cultures
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

The Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory's services are available to researchers at Penn State as well as researchers from other institutions and industry.

Work with Us

The Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory is available to assist both Penn State researchers and external clients from industry, government, and other universities. Get started:

For new clients For existing clients

What is Chromatography?

Chromatography, or "writing color," gets its name from a nineteenth-century method of separating pigments from complex mixtures.

Today, chromatography is the process used to separate components of a mixture. This includes organic and inorganic materials. The reason the mixtures are separated is so that each component can be studied and analyzed.


Agilent 8700 Laser Direct Infrared (LDIR)

The Agilent LDIR is a chemical imaging system applies Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) spectroscopy. This system is fully automated, and provides great speed in physical and chemical analysis and characterization of microplastic particles in environmental, biological, food and more.

CDS Pyroprobe 6200

The Pyroprobe 6200 performs a thermal decomposition process of organic material at elevated temperatures in an anaerobic environment. It involves the cleavage of large complex molecules into smaller, more analytically useful fragments through thermal energy.

DART - MS with IonRocket

The Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART-MS) desorbs molecules from surfaces such as leaves, currency, polymers, and packaging materials, directly introducing them to the Orbitrap inlet.

ISQ LT Single Quad GC-MS

The Thermofisher Scientific ISQ LT single quadrupole GC/MS is a high-throughput benchtop instrument that is used to screen, characterize, and quantify organic compounds in diverse matrices.

Q Exactive Orbitrap LC-MS

The Thermofisher Scientific Q Exactive (QE) LC-MS is equipped with electrospray ionization (ESI), atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI), and direct analysis in real-time (DART) ionization sources.

TSQ 9000 Triple Quad GC-MS/MS

The Thermofisher Scientific Triple Quadrupole (TSQ 9000) GC-MS/MS is equipped with Selective Reaction Monitoring (SRM) and Advanced Electron Ionization (AEI) source that facilitate ultra-sensitive targeted analyses.

Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory in Action

Research collaborations with the Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory

Wasp Gall Investigation

A team of researchers used the Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory to identify and quantify fatty acids in a new structure that the team has identified on galls induced by gall wasps on oak trees. 

Upgrading Heavy Organics

The Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory enabled a team of researchers to study the possibility of upgrading heavy organics by reactive addition of methyl groups and hydrogen atoms, which are important to improving the quality of pyrolysis products derived from coal and biomass sources.

Environmental Contaminants Analytical Laboratory Staff

Assistant Research Professor, Energy and Environmental Sustainability Laboratories
Research Technologist, Energy and Environmental Sustainability Laboratories
Research Technologist, Energy and Environmental Sustainability Laboratories
Managing Director, Energy and Environmental Sustainability Laboratories


Instrumentation Lab:

242 Energy and Environment Laboratory Building
Hastings Road
University Park, PA 16802

Sample Preparation Lab:

269 Energy and Environment Laboratory Building
Hastings Road
University Park, PA 16802