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Combining thermal hydrolysis and methylation-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry with X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to characterise complex organic assemblages in geological material

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Graham Purvis, Dr Cees van der Land, Dr Elisa Lopez-Capel, James Hood, Dr Jake Sheriff, Professor Neil GrayORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


What follows is a method applicable generically to the analysis of low levels of organic matter that is embedded in either loose fine-grained or solid geological material. Initially, the range of organic compounds that could be detected in a geological sample using conventional pyrolysis chromatography/mass spectrometry was compared to the range that was detected using thermally assisted hydrolysis and methylation-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (THM-GC/MS). This method was used to validate the synthetic components fitted to X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) carbon spectra of the sample. Reciprocally, XPS analysis was able to identify the constituent carbon-carbon, carbon-oxygen and carbon nitrogen bonds of the functional groups in the compounds identified by THM-GC/MS. The two independently derived outputs from the THM-GC/MS and the XPS techniques mutually validated the identification of organic compounds in our geological samples.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Purvis G, Sano N, van der Land C, Barlow A, Lopez-Capel E, Cumpson P, Hood J, Sheriff J, Gray N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: MethodsX

Year: 2019

Volume: 6

Pages: 2646-2655

Online publication date: 02/11/2019

Acceptance date: 29/11/2018

Date deposited: 22/11/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2215-0161

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.mex.2019.10.034


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