Perspective on element speciation
During the second half of the 20th century it became evident that trace elements play a major role whenever biological activities, environmental chemistry, or material characteristics are discussed and the determination of trace elements has therefore gained outstanding importance in environmental and life sciences. Elements, even when present at minimal concentrations in biological and environmental matrices, can, in fact, exert fundamental influence on ecosystems and the vital functions of organisms. The study of, for example, pathophysiological processes in the human body requires the determination of elements down to the ng kg−1 range. However, organic and inorganic matrix compounds at much higher concentration levels in a sample than trace elements make the determination of trace elements often rather difficult.