Toward the use of surface modified activated carbon in speciation: selective preconcentration of selenite and selenate in environmental waters.
ABSTRACT This paper describes a novel application of tetrabutylammonium hydroxide-modified activated carbon (AC-TBAH) to the speciation of ultra-trace Se(IV) and Se(VI) using LC-ICP-DRC-MS. The anion exchange functionality was immobilized onto the AC surface enables selective preconcentration of inorganic Se anions in a wide range of working pHs. Simultaneous retention and elution of both analytes, followed by subsequent analysis with LC-ICP-DRC-MS, allows to accomplish speciation analysis in natural samples without complicated redox pre-treatment. The laboratory-made column of immobilized AC (0.4 g of sorbent packed in a 6 mL syringe barrel) has achieved analyte enrichment factors of 76 and 93, respectively, for Se(IV) and Se(VI), thus proving its superior preconcentration efficiency and selectivity over common AC. The considerable enhancement in sensitivity achieved by using the preconcentration column has improved the method's detection limits to 1.9-2.2 ng L(-1), which is a 100-fold improvement compared with direct injection. The analyte recoveries from heavily polluted river matrix were between 95.3 and 107.7% with less than 5.0% RSD. The robustness of the preconcentration and speciation method was validated by analysis of natural waters collected from rivers and reservoirs in Hong Kong. The modified AC material is hence presented as a low-cost yet robust substitute for conventional anion exchange resins for routine applications.