Separation and analysis

The Centre for Chemistry and Biotechnology (CCB) is home to one of Australia’s foremost analytical chemistry and forensic science research groups. We exploit analytical, synthetic, physical and process chemistries, instrumental design, microfluidics, forensic investigation and chemometrics to produce solutions for challenging research questions.

Research areas

Within the CCB, research areas include: chemiluminescence/electrochemiluminescence (chemical light generation) identification and isolation of bioactive molecules, microfluidics/micromachining and 3D-printing, multidimensional chromatography, chemical/biological data analysis for forensic science. 

We collaborate with a range of organisations, including: Sun Pharmaceuticals, Boundary Bend Olives, Victoria Police Forensic Science Department and the universities of Melbourne, Manchester, Hull, Strathclyde, Oviedo, Lancaster and Western Sydney.

In an ongoing collaboration with our pharmaceutical partner, we employed innovative two-dimensional high performance liquid chromatography to identify for the first time crucial impurities in the extracts of medicinal alkaloids from opium poppies.

Alfred Deakin Professor Neil Barnett

Group coordinator, Centre for Chemistry and Biotechnology

Research priorities

The use of chemiluminescence

While the mechanisms of chemiluminescence reactions are not always well understood, we've been able to identify some of the pathways and key intermediate species. A primary benefit of chemiluminescence detection is that, because there's no need for an external excitation source, it can be effectively coupled to flow analysis and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to provide sensitive and selective detection.

We use this technology to challenge chemical measurements of analytes including antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in pharmaceutical production, process monitoring, oenology, cell biology and forensic science.

Recently, these investigations have explored electrochemiluminescence, which includes the development of multi-colour detection systems for both conventional and portable mobile phone-based analytical devices.

Bioactive molecule activity

There's growing commercial importance in identifying and characterising the bioactive molecule profiles of extracts drawn from complex, naturally occurring matrices. For example, we use conventional and two-dimensional HPLC with various detection strategies to examine complex mixtures in pharmaceutical production for a better understanding of the provenance and identity of impurities. This also enables us to identify potential new products.

Our team works closely with the Australian olive oil industry to monitor key bioactive compounds and the influence of varietal and processing impacts. A key component of our research is maximising the efficacy of two-dimensional HPLC. By pairing fundamentally unique approaches to separation science we can promptly isolate hundreds of chemical compounds.

Enhancing separation and detection

Microfluidic technology has been used for the development of highly-reproducible, miniaturised analytical components and the systematic optimisation of flow-cell geometry for chemiluminescence detection. Together, these advances enable powerful chromatographic separations and multi-reaction detection within low-cost, portable analytical devices. This means that individual selectivity of different column materials and different reagents can be exploited to target important classes of compounds.

Forensic analysis

At CCB we use chemical, biological and data analysis for forensic investigations. Through our links with Victoria Police, we’ve made major advances on joint projects with the Victoria Police Forensic Services Department.

These include development of DNA analysis, entomology studies and illicit drug chemical fingerprinting. We’re also contributing to crime scene analysis through the mapping of blood stain patterns and the electronic reproduction of crime scene information.

Recently, this work has been included in several key publications and continues to make a significant contribution to forensic science in Victoria.

Featured researcher

Dr Jacqui Adcock is an ARC DECRA fellow. Her work specifically focuses on omega-3 fatty acids and the synthesis of anti-inflammatory compounds which may be beneficial for treating conditions such as arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, periodontal disease and allergies. Dr Adcock has also worked on the development of new methodologies for the analysis of foods, biological fluids, industrial process samples, pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs.

Contact us

Group Coordinator
Professor Neil Barnett
+61 3 5227 1409
Email Professor Barnett