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Speciation as a discipline in Analytical Chemistry – Definitions

The International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has published guidelines or recommendations for the definition of speciation analysis:

Speciation analysis is the analytical activity of identifying and/or measuring the quantities of one or more individual chemical species in a sample.

The chemical species are specific forms of an element defined as to isotopic composition, electronic or oxidation state, and/or complex or molecular structure.

The speciation of an element is the distribution of an element amongst defined chemical species in a system.

In case that it is not possible to determine the concentration of the different individual chemical species that sum up the total concentration of an element in a given matrix, that means it is impossible to determine the speciation, it is a useful practice to do fractionation instead.

Fractionation is the process of classification of an analyte or a group of analytes from a certain sample according to physical (e.g. size, solubility) or chemical (e.g. bonding, reactivity) properties.

Many authors talk about trace element speciation when they actually only present methods and results for fractionation such as sequential leaching. On the other hand, some authors present data on trace element speciation, but never use the term "speciation". This is for example frequently happening for publications in the field of isotopes.

Further reading:

Douglas M. Templeton, Hitomi Fujishiro, Terminology of elemental speciation – An IUPAC perspective, Coord. Chem. Rev., 352 (2017) 424-431. DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2017.02.002

D.M. Templeton, F. Ariese, R. Cornelis, L.-G. Danielsson, H. Muntau, H.P. van Leeuwen, R. Lobinski, IUPAC Guidelines for Terms Related to Speciation of Trace Elements, Pure Appl. Chem., 72/8 (2000) 1453-1470. DOI: 10.1351/pac200072081453

 Related EVISA Resources: Brief summaries

About Speciation 

   Why should elemental speciation be done ?

   Why is elemental speciation analysis not done routinely ?

   Speciation analysis as a tool to enhance the quality of life

   Speciation and Toxicity

Research fields related to elemental speciation

   Chemical speciation analysis for the life sciences

   Chemical speciation analysis for nutrition and food science

   Trace element speciation analysis for environmental sciences

   Speciation analysis for the study of metallodrugs and their biomolecular interactions

Speciation Analysis - Striving for Quality

   Problems to be solved in the field of speciation analysis

   Error sources in speciation analysis - Overview

   Sample preservation for speciation analysis - General recommendations

   Species transformation during speciation analysis

   Certified Reference Materials for Chemical Speciation Analysis

   Standard methods for elemental speciation analysis

Tools for elemental speciation analysis

   ICP-MS - A versatile detection system for speciation analysis

   LC-ICP-MS - The most often used hyphenated system for speciation analysis


   CE-ICP-MS for speciation analysis

   ESI-MS: The tool for the identification of species

   Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry as a Detection System for Speciation Analysis

   Fractionation as a first step towards speciation analysis

last time modified: December 18, 2017


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