Determination of ammonia and aliphatic amines in environmental aqueous samples utilizing pre-column derivatization to their phenylthioureas and high performance liquid chromatography
Pre-column conversion of ammonia and a number of aliphatic amines into phenylthiourea or its derivatives by reaction with phenyl isothiocyanate, followed by HPLC, has been used for their determination in environmental waters. Optimum conversion was found when the reaction was carried out in sodium hydrogencarbonate–
carbonate medium at 40°C for 15 min. Well separated peaks were obtained on a C18 column with an acetonitrile–water gradient (1 ml min–1) of 30% acetonitrile for an initial 5 min which was increased linearly to 100% over 15 min and then maintained isocratic for 5 min, the acetonitrile ratio finally being returned to 30% in 5 min. The derivatized analytes were subjected to off-line solid phase extraction on C18 sorbent. A linear calibration graph was obtained for 0.01–10 mg l–1 analytes with a correlation coefficient of 0.9954 for ammonia and in the range 0.9982–0.9996 for amines. The limit of detection for ammonia was 0.2 µg l–1 and for amines in the range 0.3–0.6 µg l–1. The method was applied to tap, underground, river and aquarium waters, the recovery being in the range 97–106% (RSD 1.8–4.5%). Many of the samples were found to contain more than the permissible limit of ammonia. Phenyl isothiocyanate is stable for long periods in aqueous medium over wide ranges of pH and temperature, and the resulting phenylthioureas have adequate retention on C18 sorbent and strong UV absorption, making this reagent suitable for the determination of amines in water.