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 SingerSenior scientist / group leaderTel. +41 58 765 5577Send Mail


Philipp LongreeTel. +41 58 765 5099Send Mail

PhD Student

Sabine AnlikerTel. +41 58 765 5745Send Mail

Students & guests

Michèle Heeb - Swiss Water Association (VSA) 
Astrid Mayer - master student

External collaborator

Scientific researcher

Bernadette Vogler Scientific Assistant Tel. +41 58 765 6474 Send Mail
Dr. Michael Stravs Postdoctoral scientist Tel. +41 58 765 6742 Send Mail
Evelyne Vonwyl Tel. +41 58 765 5298 Send Mail
Dominique Rust Tel. +41 58 765 5709 Send Mail

Current projects

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...
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)....
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...

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