In terms of risk assessment especially for known and unknown substances migrating from food contact materials, quantification without corresponding reference substances currently poses a challenge. In the present study, the opportunity of a universal response quantification approach was evaluated by using a corona charged aerosol detector (CAD) for liquid chromatography combined with inverse gradient compensation. Characteristics of CAD detection in dependence of substance properties were analyzed with 46 randomly chosen reference substances. An almost equal CAD response (±20%) was achieved for non-volatile substances with a molecular weight of minimum 400 g/mol and a vapor pressure of maximum 10−8 Torr. We empirically defined an analytical parameter, Q50/35, the quotient of CAD peak areas at CAD evaporator temperatures of 50 °C and 35 °C, to predict the adequacy of the CAD universal response approach for quantification of known and unknown analyte substances. Exemplarily, we applied the CAD universal quantification approach for the determination of extractable oligomers below 1000 g/mol from a variety of food contact polycondensate plastic materials (e.g. polyesters like polyethylene terephthalate, polybutylene terephthalate, Tritan copolyester, polyamides 6, 6.6 and 6 T/6I and polyarylsulfones polyphenylsulfone and polyethersulfone). Quantitative results for in total 44 oligomers out of 11 materials were compared with established material-specific quantification methods using extracted oligomer mixtures as well as individual oligomers isolated from the mixtures. CAD-based quantification results were generally in accordance to published quantification approaches for polyamide oligomers and oligomers from polyarylsulfones. For oligomers extracted and isolated from polyester materials a slight underestimation was determined by CAD universal response approach. In terms of detection limits and accuracy, the universal CAD approach exhibits no advantages compared to established UV-methods, to date.
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