Common espresso machine can perform complex chemical analysis

first_imgChemical analyses often take lots of time and require expensive equipment, not to mention substantial volumes of harsh solvents. But not if you use an espresso machine. Researchers have utilized an off-the-shelf, countertop coffeemaker to quickly and cheaply extract cancer-causing contaminants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from samples of polluted soil. First, they loaded a capsule containing 5 grams of soil spiked with PAHs (instead of coffee grounds) into their machine. Then, instead of water, they forced 50 milliliters of a mixture of water and a solvent called acetonitrile (bottle, above) through the soil sample at normal espressomaking temperature and pressure—a process that took all of 11 seconds, instead of the 30 minutes or more required for some other methods. Finally, they ran the resulting “brew” through other lab equipment using normal procedures to detect and measure the substances that had been extracted from the soil. Concentrations of soil PAHs measured using the espresso machine typically fell within 20% of those measured by standard methods, the researchers report in Analytical Chemistry. Despite requiring hoses, seals, and other internal connections to be replaced regularly, the off-the-shelf espresso machine ends up being a low-cost option for quick analyses, the team notes. Currently, the brewmasters are checking to see whether their espresso machine can also be used to detect and measure pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and detergents in food or soil samples.last_img