Graham Sustainability Institute

High Resolution Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry for Expanding UM Freshwater Research

Project Photo


Krista Rule Wigginton, U‐M Civil and Environmental Engineering

Additional Core Team Members

Allen Burton, U‐M School of Natural Resources and Environment
Nancy Love, U‐M Civil and Environmental Engineering
Terese Olson, U‐M Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Summary

Assessing the impacts of pollutants on freshwater environments is challenging due to the vast numbers of synthetic chemicals used in products today, the ways which many of these chemicals transform in the environment and, until recently, technological limitations in pollutant detection. The recent advancement of high‐resolution mass spectrometer (HRMS) instruments can provide broad scanning capabilities and thus a more comprehensive picture of organic contaminants and their degradation products.

The project team is leveraging funds from the Water Center and multiple other sources to purchase a powerful new HRMS, which will be housed in the Environmental & Water Resources Engineering building on the U‐M campus. The HRMS will be dedicated to environmental analyses, including those related to measuring levels of pharmaceutical and personal care product (PPCP) compounds and their degradation products; the fate of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) cyanotoxins and their degradation products; and unknown hydraulic fracturing fluid constituents, among others. The instrument will also be available to other U‐M and Great Lakes region researchers to use on a fee‐per‐ sample basis.

The research resulting from the HRMS instrument will position U‐M as a leader in the study of emerging organic pollutants in freshwater systems, and it will advance restoration science and policy implementation:

  1. A number of new methods will be created and optimized for detecting, quantifying, and classifying organic analytes;
  2. A better understanding of what contaminants are in surface waters will allow toxicologists and ecologists to begin to examine if and how the identified contaminants impact the environment;
  3. The instrument will enable measurement of pollutant loads before and after experimental mitigation processes, making remediation more cost effective at large scales; and
  4. Policy makers can use the resulting data to help guide future regulations on the use, treatment, and disposal of organic chemicals.