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Name: Mark D
Status: Student
Age: 20s
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How are Human Pheromones extracted from sweat and urine?

This is a special case of the analysis of any trace organic compound. The procedure for the isolation and identification of trace organic compounds generally involves these steps:

1. Concentration,
2. Separation & Classification (acid, base, or neutral),
3. Identification (what substance), and 4. Quantification (how much).

The concentration / separation is accomplished by one of three methods:
[a.] liquid chromatography,
[b.] selective absorption on macroreticular resins + selective elution (this is a special type of liquid chromatography),
[c.] vapor phase chromatography.

The classification step, where needed, is accomplished by selective elution with an acid, a base or a neutral eluent. This step is also sometimes used directly in conjunction with vapor phase chromatography which separates the compounds according to volatility and absorption on a surface-treated absorbant substrate.

The identification / quantification can be accomplished by any appropriate organic analytical technique; however, the most direct method is high resolution mass spectrometry. High resolution mass spectrometry yields a precise molecular mass of the parent compound, and the precise masses of cracking fragments often allows the assignment of a molecular structure. This data often permits assignment of a molecular structure, since these instruments search enormous libraries of the mass spectra of known substances. The structure assignment can be confirmed by synthesizing the candidate compounds and comparing their mass spectra, if necessary, but often it is not necessary.

In labs set up to do this type of analysis, the concentration /separation steps are frequently connected directly to the front end of the mass spectrometer so that there is not intermediate handling of the various compounds.

The characterization of trace organic compounds is chemical technology at its max.

Vince Calder

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