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The Art and Science of Chemical Analysis - Principles and Practice of Analytical Chemistry - Environmental Analytical Chemistry
September 6, 2002

Analytical chemistry is of great importance to the modern world in ensuring safety and quality of food, clinical diagnostics, and monitoring industrial and environmental safety, to name but a few areas. But there are questions about whether the chemistry curriculum gives it its rightful place or buries it away under ancient physical, organic and inorganic divisions and teaches it as a disparate collection of techniques.

These three books are aimed at undergraduates pursuing chemistry programmes and would also be a suitable grounding for those specialising in analytical chemistry. The chapter structure of Fred Fifield and David Kealey's book, the first edition of which was published in 1975, follows the traditional path of wet chemistry techniques, electrochemistry, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, separation methods, radiochemical methods and thermal techniques.

Christie Enke's book would also be suitable for undergraduate chemists and students undertaking courses such as biochemistry or biomedical sciences that contain a strong analytical course component. But, while it would provide a sound introduction for students specialising in analytical chemistry, it does not go into the necessary depth.

Enke aims to break down chemical analysis into four components: quantitation, detection, identification and separation. The book's structure is based on the differentiating characteristics of groups of techniques - an unusual approach but one well worth considering.

For example, there are chapters on analysis based on absorption of light, analysis by interphase partition (including gas chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography) and also more traditional wet chemical techniques. Each chapter emphasises differentiating characteristics. It is pleasing to note that there is also a chapter on techniques differentiating via biochemical activity (enzyme activity, immuno-assays, for instance). These methods are widely used in clinical chemistry and are worth including as they are also used for environmental monitoring. The section on high-performance liquid chromatography is rather small given the widespread use of this technique in modern laboratories, however, and there is little on mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance.

Fifield and Kealey's volume also has chapters on automation and computing. The authors describe the basic principles of instrumentation and give examples of their application. Each chapter contains a useful summary of principles, instrumentation, applications and disadvantages. There is a short list of suggested further reading as well as problems to solve at the end of each chapter, with answers given at the book's end.

It is a book that contains a lot of information about most of the techniques, very much from a chemistry viewpoint. Illustrations are solely in black and white so that it is not a particularly attractive production and many of the diagrams are quite small. It is, nonetheless, quite thorough and tries to ensure that the amount of material devoted to each technique approximates to its industrial use.

The book by Fifield and Peter Haines is suitable for chemistry undergraduates undertaking courses with a strong analytical or environmental leaning, or for those taking environmental science with a strong monitoring emphasis. It has a difficult balance to strike. If you look at the scientific literature for applications of new techniques, you will get a different perspective than if you observe the techniques actually operating in environmental laboratories, where the results are used to make decisions.

The book describes the techniques most commonly used in this field, in a rather similar approach to standard analytical texts (such as the two mentioned above), discussing, for example, titrimetry, gravimetry, separation methods, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, electro-analyticals and so on. It also has highly relevant chapters on biological indicators, ecotoxicology, ionising radiation and the more important environmental matrices such as air, water and land.

The 20 different chapters have been written by eight different authors including the editors. Most major chapters have self-study exercises and answers as well as a small amount of suggested further reading. Coverage of most of the major techniques is adequate, although given the widespread use of separation techniques for environmental monitoring of trace organics these deserve rather more coverage than they get.

Enke's book comes with an accompanying CD, which concentrates mainly on the mathematical aspects of techniques and adds little to the understanding of the modern instrumental techniques. Excel-based spreadsheets allow a selection of the figures used in the text to be manipulated and visualised.

It also supplies web support for class lecturers. This has to be accessed via the publisher's website after registration and collection of a password. The support includes answers to practice questions and problems that appear at the end of each chapter. The web support also includes printable copies of selected figures from the text, allowing the possibility of preparing overheads or slides for lectures. This all worked very well when I tried it, and the password was supplied within 24 hours of request. No doubt web support will be a growing factor.

Derek Stevenson is senior lecturer in analytical chemistry, University of Surrey.

The Art and Science of Chemical Analysis

Author - Christie G. Enke
ISBN - 0 471 37369 9 and 41771 8
Publisher - Wiley
Price - £31.50 and £18.50
Pages - 500

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