Future Cases

There are many other case studies under development. Here is the brief introduction of them.

Vanillin Polymer Polydispersivity
Mine Leachate Environmental Sampling
Protein Purity Unknown Compound Identification
Modified DNA  


Vanillin back

The Problem: How would a regulatory agency such as the Federal Drug Administration determine whether vanilla extract, that sells for a substantial price, is authentic?

Vanillin is the chief flavoring compound in natural vanilla extract. It is also the exclusive chemical compound in artificial vanilla.

Vanilla Extract is the solution obtained from the extracts of 100g of vanilla beans in 1 liter of 45% ethanol. It contains principally vanillin and also several hundred additional components in trace amounts. The price for vanilla beans has ranged from $30-$38 per pound.

Imitation Vanilla Extract is an alcohol solution containing synthetically derived vanillin from waste products of the wood pulp industry. The abundance of this resource has afforded food counterfeiters a fraudulent money-making opportunity.

The Experiment
is for you to determine if the sample provide to you was extracted from vanilla beans or not. This requires two sequential laboratory exercises; first, use an ESI-Ion Trap to investigate the purity of your sample and to confirm that it does contain vanillin. The second experiment will be to use the Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer to determine the C-12 to C-13 ratio of the vanillin in your sample. Comparison of this ratio to a standard data base will allow you to answer the posed question.

Other Background Information

Polymer Polydispersivity back

Analysis of Polymer Polydispersivity - e.g., of the type that industrial research typically conduct as they attempt to prepare new materials and which can be used not only to introduce the difficulty of ionizing some of the bulk polymers used in everyday living but can be used to introduce and contrast classical methods, such as GPC, that address the same question. Download a PDF document describing thoughts, plans, and progress on this case study.

Mine Leachates back

Determination if Mine Leachates are Polluting a Local Stream - e.g., by analyzing isotope ratios of selected metal ions, one can determine if water flows might be moving metals out of tailing piles into fresh water sources.

Environmental Sampling back

Environmental Sample Analysis - e.g., identification of compounds and their relative concentrations, in the Chemistry building, using the SIFT and its capabilities for Real-Time Environmental Monitoring via Proton or Charge Transfer Reactions.

Protein Purity back

Protein Purity - e.g., analysis of an isolated and purified protein or known enzyme from a Biochemistry Laboratory course to compare authenticity and purity as determined by MS versus the standard gel electrophoretic techniques.

Unknown Compound Identification back

Unknown Compound Identification - e.g., use high resolution MS to examine drugs of abuse and designer drug versions thereof.

Modified DNA back

Identification of Modified DNA - e.g., use the sequencing capability of either ESI Ion Traps or MALDI-TOF instruments to characterize an olgionucleotide and to specifically identify a unique chemical modification therein.


© Copyright 2003 VMSL All rights reserved