Department Environmental Chemistry

Environmental Analytical Chemistry

Research in the group of environmental analytical chemistry focuses on development of novel methods for the analysis of organic contaminants in the aquatic environment. For the sensitive and reliable quantification of targeted contaminants such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and their transformation products, we use mass spectrometry (Oribtrap and Triplequad technology) coupled to liquid chromatography or gas chromatography. For the multi-compound screening (currently more than 500 target compounds) in ground water, surface water and waste water we apply LC-ESI-Orbitrap methods after solid phase enrichment of the samples (offline or online coupled to multi-layer cartridges). For the ultra-sensitive detection of single compounds or compound classes, such as glyphosate, pyrethroid insecticides, or perfluorinated compounds, LC-ESI-Triplequad or GC-APCI-Triplequad methods has been developed. Comprehensive suspect and non-target (general unknown) screening approaches analysis has been established using LC-Orbitrap methods. Our objective is to address blind spots within the current environmental analysis. For this the development of innovative and comprehensive analytical methods is needed as well as new algorithms and workflows for the mining of high resolution mass spectrometry data have to be established. Several open-access software tools resulted so far from our research efforts (e. g. and more free-to-use software is underway. To adequately determine the spatial and time-resolved exposure of water bodies in field studies we currently expedited the improvement of existing active and passive water sampling techniques and explore the capabilities of transportable mass spectrometers for on-site measurements.


For our research we are running the following major instruments:

High resolution mass spectrometers:
Orbitrap XL, QExactive, QExactive Plus (all Thermo Scientific);
all Orbitraps are equipped with online-SPE-HPLC (CTC, Flux) and nano-UHPLC (Dionex) as well as with ESI, APCI, APPI sources (Thermo Scientific)

Triplequad mass spectrometers:
Thermo Scientific Vantage and Agilent 6495
all Triplequads are equipped with online-SPE-HPLC; Vantage is also coupled to a Dionex Cap-IC; the Agilent 6495 is also coupled to a GC over an APCI interface

Singlequad mass spectrometers:
Thermo Scientific DSQ and Trace DSQ (maintained by the stable isotope lab of Thomas Hofstetter)
all MS are equipped with a gas chromatograph (EI source), split/splitless and on-column injector, PTV, purge and trap


Heinz Singer Senior scientist / group leader Tel. +41 58 765 5577 Send Mail

Latest publications

Ruff, M.; Mueller, M. S.; Loos, M.; Singer, H. P. (2015) Quantitative target and systematic non-target analysis of polar organic micro-pollutants along the river Rhine using high-resolution mass-spectrometry – identification of unknown sources and compounds, Water Research, 87, 145-154, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.09.017, Institutional Repository
Qi, W.; Singer, H.; Berg, M.; Müller, B.; Pernet-Coudrier, B.; Liu, H.; Qu, J. (2015) Elimination of polar micropollutants and anthropogenic markers by wastewater treatment in Beijing, China, Chemosphere, 119, 1054-1061, doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.09.027, Institutional Repository
Moschet, C.; Vermeirssen, E. L. M.; Singer, H.; Stamm, C.; Hollender, J. (2015) Evaluation of in-situ calibration of Chemcatcher passive samplers for 322 micropollutants in agricultural and urban affected rivers, Water Research, 71, 306-317, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2014.12.043, Institutional Repository
Loos, M.; Gerber, C.; Corona, F.; Hollender, J.; Singer, H. (2015) Accelerated isotope fine structure calculation using pruned transition trees, Analytical Chemistry, 87(11), 5738-5744, doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.5b00941, Institutional Repository
Schymanski, E. L.; Singer, H. P.; Longrée, P.; Loos, M.; Ruff, M.; Stravs, M. A.; Ripollés Vidal, C.; Hollender, J. (2014) Strategies to characterize polar organic contamination in wastewater: exploring the capability of high resolution mass spectrometry, Environmental Science and Technology, 48(3), 1811-1818, doi:10.1021/es4044374, Institutional Repository
Schymanski, E. L.; Jeon, J.; Gulde, R.; Fenner, K.; Ruff, M.; Singer, H. P.; Hollender, J. (2014) Identifying small molecules via high resolution mass spectrometry: communicating confidence, Environmental Science and Technology, 48(4), 2097-2098, doi:10.1021/es5002105, Institutional Repository
Moschet, C.; Wittmer, I.; Simovic, J.; Junghans, M.; Piazzoli, A.; Singer, H.; Stamm, C.; Leu, C.; Hollender, J. (2014) How a complete pesticide screening changes the assessment of surface water quality, Environmental Science and Technology, 48(10), 5423-5432, doi:10.1021/es500371t, Institutional Repository
Hollender, J.; Bourgin, M.; Fenner, K. B.; Longrée, P.; Mcardell, C. S.; Moschet, C.; Ruff, M.; Schymanski, E. L.; Singer, H. P. (2014) Exploring the behaviour of emerging contaminants in the water cycle using the capabilities of high resolution mass spectrometry, Chimia, 68(11), 793-798, doi:10.2533/chimia.2014.793, Institutional Repository
Moschet, C.; Piazzoli, A.; Singer, H.; Hollender, J. (2013) Alleviating the reference standard dilemma using a systematic exact mass suspect screening approach with liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry, Analytical Chemistry, 85(21), 10312-10320, doi:10.1021/ac4021598, Institutional Repository
Moschet, C.; Götz, C.; Longrée, P.; Hollender, J.; Singer, H. (2013) Multi-level approach for the integrated assessment of polar organic micropollutants in an international lake catchment: The example of Lake Constance, Environmental Science and Technology, 47(13), 7028-7036, doi:10.1021/es304484w, Institutional Repository
Huntscha, S.; Singer, H. P.; McArdell, C. S.; Frank, C. E.; Hollender, J. (2012) Multiresidue analysis of 88 polar organic micropollutants in ground, surface and wastewater using online mixed-bed multilayer solid-phase extraction coupled to high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, Journal of Chromatography A, 1268, 74-83, doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2012.10.032, Institutional Repository

Team members

Stephan Baumgartner Doctoral Student Tel. +41 58 765 6664 Send Mail
Dr. Teofana Chonova Postdoctoral Scientist Tel. +41 58 765 5518 Send Mail
Viviane Furrer Tel. +41 58 765 6419 Send Mail
Vera Ganz Research Collaborator Tel. +41 58 765 5699 Send Mail
Philipp Longree Technician Tel. +41 58 765 5099 Send Mail
Kim Luong Research collaborator Tel. +41 58 765 5918 Send Mail
Simon Mangold Technician Tel. +41 58 765 5779 Send Mail
Asger Rasmussen Master Student Tel. +41 58 765 5396 Send Mail
Sebastian Salzmann Lab Technician Tel. +41 58 765 6461 Send Mail
Michelle Salvisberg Research collaborator Tel. +41 58 765 6881 Send Mail
Christian Schwander Intern Tel. +41 58 765 5986 Send Mail
Dr. Johannes Boog Research Software Developer and Data Scientist Tel. +41 58 765 5623 Send Mail

Current projects

NTSuisse: Development of a National Platform for the Analysis of High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry Data
At the Rhine monitoring station, the Basel-Stadt Environment and Energy Office (AUE Basel-Stadt) is measuring water contamination with organic micropollutants on a daily basis…
Measuring micropollutants in combined sewer overflows with mobile HRMS
Analysis of human excretion products in wastewater as additional, independent indicators for the assessment of epidemiological information
Emissions from the galenic production (GalPro) of pharmaceuticals can lead to concentration peaks of active ingredients in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents...
Exploring industrial discharges of polar organic contaminants to Swiss surface waters
High resolution mass spectrometry in the field
Comprehensive monitoring of organic trace substances in surface waters is time-consuming and costly. The NAWA SPEZ project delivers data and analyses on the status of water pollution.
In order to obtain a more comprehensive picture of the contamination of Swiss groundwater with polar organic micropollutants...

Terminated projects

The river Rhine and its tributaries are a source of drinking water for more than 20 million people. At the same time treated waste water from numerous industrial sites and from the 54 million people living in the catchment area ends up in the rivers...
The screening of aquatic systems for known and unknown polar and semi-polar organic micropollutants relies heavily on analytical chemistry, foremost high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) coupled to liquid chromatography (LC)....