The research topic of the Analytical Chemistry group focuses on the development of analytical methods (including molecular and atomic spectroscopies, gas- and liquid-chromatography, and mass-spectrometry), pre-analytical sample treatments and chemometric approaches aimed at investigating complex systems in the field of chemistry, biology, environmental and food sciences.
Both targeted (chromatographic or multi-elemental analysis) and untargeted (UV-vis and infrared spectroscopic fingerprinting) are applied in combination with classification and class-modelling strategies for the discrimination on the geographical/varietal basis of regional agronomical specialties and authentication of high-value certified foodstuffs. Previous and current studies concern, among the others, saffron, lentils, pecorino cheeses, garlic and wines. Additionally, the same analytical methodologies are applied for fraud detection, in particular, for identification of counterfeits and adulterations.
Application of innovative sorbents in water decontamination and solid-phase extraction
Innovative materials based on carbon nanotubes and sponges or obtained by molecular imprinting technologies are synthetized and characterised. Materials with modulated selectivity are used in the solid-phase extraction of target analytes from aqueous samples. Adsorption properties of the sorbents and their potentiality in the removal of pesticides from aqueous environment are also investigated. Moreover, nanocrystalline magnetic oxides, like ferric oxides (Fe2O3 and Fe3O4), are used as efficient sorbents to extract heavy metals from aqueous solutions.
Optimisation of separation methods
Design of Experiments combined with Response Surface Methodology is applied to optimize extraction of target analytes from real samples or maximize resolution in both gas- and liquid-chromatography. Quantitative structure-retention relationships for various chemical classes of analytical interest are established. Multi-variable predictive models combining molecular descriptors and chromatographic variables are developed to support chromatographic optimization and to transfer chromatographic data among different columns.
Mass Spectrometric based analysis of complex matrices
Electrospray Mass Spectrometry (ESI MS) coupled with high-performance or ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC or UHPLC) is used for the characterization of natural and bio-inspired polymers obtained by in vitro synthesis from monomeric phenolic precursors and for metabolomic studies of food matrices. (UHPLC)-ESI MS is also used to study proteins (in the molecular weight range from peptides up to antibodies), enzymatic proteolysis and for the identification of polar non volatile organic compounds from various origins. Volatile and/or semivolatile organic compounds (VOCs, SVOCs) from plants, atmospheric particulate, lichens, food and other complex matrices are characterized by gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS) coupled with Head Space Solid Phase Micro Extraction (HS-SPME).
Development of novel tools for data analysis
Data analysis is a discipline which spans different contexts. Due to the advancement of new technologies, it is an everyday task to handle complex and information-rich data; consequently, developing new approaches for data analysis is of fundamental importance. Method development is mainly focused on regression and classification tools, but also on variable selection approaches for interpretative purposes. In-house routines are generally written in Matlab, but also other software (e.g., R) are used.
The group has a thriving network of national and international collaborations, hereby the main ones are listed:
- INRAE (Institut de Recherches en Sciences et Technologies pour l’Environnement et l’Agriculture), Montpellier, France
- University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Danmark
- NOFIMA (Norwegian Institute for Food and Fishery), Ås, Norway
- University of Tarragona, Tarragona, Spain
- Shahrekord University, Shahr-e Kord, Iran
- University of Lille, Lille, France
- Department of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Cancer Center, Department of Chemical Engineering, Howard University, Washington, USA.
- Aging Research Center, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
- Food and Biobased Research, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
- University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy
- University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy
- Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS, 00168 Rome, Italy
- Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 00168 Roma, Italy
- Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II.
- Majella National Park