In the late 1980s, Wiley published the successful series Analytical Chemistry by Open Learning. Now comes a new series, Analytical Techniques in the Sciences. It has shifted up a gear, not only in the topics covered but also in the complexity of treatment. Volumes focus on highly specific parts of chemical analysis, each taking an analytical technique or an area of application. The three books in this review include both the technique and application-oriented approaches.
Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, the topic of the first book, is a comparatively recent development, combining the capacity of liquid chromatography to separate the individual components of a complex mixture with the power of mass spectrometry to identify the compounds once they have been separated. When these are linked in one instrument, the result offers exceptional power and sensitivity, which are invaluable in a number of applications - not least those covered by the other two books in this review.
Chemical analysis allows society to investigate and to better understand a number of areas of concern - for example, the misuse of drugs in everyday life, athletics and horse racing, or the impact of human activities on the environment. The analytical procedures employed in the identification and measurement of controlled drugs and the measurement of both natural substances and pollutants in the environment overlap in many areas.
Both involve the measurement of very low concentrations of material in highly complex samples. Our ability to do this is not purely the result of increased instrumental sophistication; skills and procedures (often missing from textbooks but covered in these books) had to be developed, also, to permit measurements on real samples. The most valued skills of the analyst are often to be found in the isolation of what is of interest in highly complex samples without loss or contamination and in the validation of the quality of the results obtained. It is refreshing to find self-learning texts that do not focus exclusively on instrumentation, but also explain what a machine can be used for and why a particular approach should be taken.
The books are all quite advanced (though not uniformly so) and frequently assume prior knowledge of the analytical techniques. In general, they are pitched at masters level or at the higher levels of a BSc course with a large component of analytical chemistry.
I suspect the books will be of most use to individuals whose daily work involves them in the particular topic, whether they be technical staff, taught students or researchers. Whereas most specialist texts leave readers to develop their understanding without assistance, these books help by setting learning objectives, posing questions and giving answers. Readers will be able to follow the books' concept of open, self-paced learning and should significantly enhance their understanding of the selected topic.
Alan G. Howard is senior lecturer in chemistry, University of Southampton.
Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry: An Introduction. First edition
Author - Robert E. Ardrey
Publisher - Wiley
Pages - 6
Price - £75.00 and £29.95
ISBN - 0 471 49799 1 and 49801 7