Volatile analysis laboratory

Key facilities

A Perkin Elmer autosampler

Two gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) instruments - a new Perkin Elmer instrument and older Hewlett Packard instrument

An in-house designed fibre calibrator - used to assess the performance of Solid Phase micro extraction fibres (SPME fibres). The SPME fibres are used to concentrate volatiles from the headspace above biological samples - then the volatiles are desorbed directly in the injection port of the GCMS.


There are currently a few large projects being carried out in the lab.

Detection of volatiles in stool samples

This project, in conjunction with Bristol Healthcare Trust/BRI, is looking at the detection of volatiles from stool samples.

The aim is to differentiate normal patients from those with a specific disease state using a pattern of volatiles.

The work aims to provide a rapid test to differentiate between different disease states - sooner than conventional hospital lab tests - thus improving treatment.

Using markers to detect bowel cancer

A project to identify markers/volatile patterns specific to early stage bowel cancer, which will study a patients' breath in an attempt to give an early diagnosis of hepatic encephalopathy which is found in patients with liver disease.

Other recent projects include: a Defra funded project concerned with finding volatile profiles for the potato diseases Ring rot and Brown rot. These diseases are not present in the UK and the idea is to provide a method by which Plant health inspectorate can detect specific volatile profiles associated with the diseases in imported shipments -thus stopping them becoming established in the UK.

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