PFAS Extraction

PFAS_application in Water


  • High Efficiency

  • Low Background 

  • Good Recovery

  • Small Footprint

Challenges of Manual PFAS Extraction 

PFAS compounds are highly ubiquitous, requiring careful handling to avoid cross-contamination. The extraction procedure also involves many steps, including sample container rinsing to recover sticker PFAS compounds. Combined with the need to prevent sorbent drying and maintain flow rates, a technician needs to fully attend to the extraction. A broad range of compounds with varying chain lengths and functional groups mean that more than one type of extraction needs to be performed to cover the growing PFAS list.

Sample preparation manual extraction
  • Time consuming - constant supervision

  • Tedious - many steps in extraction procedure

  • Challenging - maintaining flow rates

  • Low throughput - 1 to 2 runs per shift

  • Human error 

  • Push start and walk away

  • All cartridge extraction steps automated

  • Constant flow rates, resistant to clogging

  • 3 to 4 runs per shift (EPA Method 537.1)

  • Consistent results and extraction time


What is PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in used in firefighting foam, chrome-plating, waterproof textiles and other Teflon products. These chemicals are attracting particular attention due to their persistence in the environment and risk of adverse health impacts. Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) is commonly employed for extracting PFAS in drinking/surface/waste water samples as well as clean up of soil, food, solids and biosolid extracts. Common SPE methods for water samples include EPA Method 537.1, EPA Method 533, DoD QSM Table B-15, and other isotope dilution methods. 

Below depicts the snapshot of PFAS pollution of water systems in USA as of January 2021. Data is collected by EWG and SSEHRI and shows 2,337 locations in 49 states with PFAS contamination. Our SPE-03 systems have been deployed in major locations, and continue to see new government and private labs take steps to streamline their PFAS testing.


Automating PFAS Extraction 

Overcoming the Challenges of PFAS Extraction 

The automation for PFAS extraction is more demanding than other SPE methods, due to the complex extraction steps (including sample bottle rinsing), low background requirements and range of compound behavior.

In July 2018, we developed the MOD-004 automated sample bottle rinsing function and MOD-005 minimal-Teflon option for the SPE-03. Close collaboration with laboratories from the United States and Australia has resulted in a well-accepted solution that is fully automated, fast, clean, and robust. The below article featured on SelectScience showcases our development efforts with Merit Labs on our first PFAS system for EPA Method 537.

Editorial Article:
Perfecting Automated Solid Phase Extraction for PFAS and other Perfluorinated Compounds in Drinking Water


Learn how one U.S. analytical lab has struck a partnership with its technology provider to become an industry leader in drinking water analysis


How SPE-03 Achieves Clean Background

Care must be taken with automated SPE systems to ensure that PTFE commonly used in these systems does not contribute to unacceptable analyte concentrations in the blanks. The system should also minimize carry over. With the following features, the SPE-03 is able to exceed even the tightest background limits.

1) Replace PTFE tubing in solvent and sample lines

2) Replace PTFE valve rotors

3) Optimize the flow path and remove dead zones during solvent cleaning

4) Devise a closed sample loading system to avoid contamination from the environment.

5) Design an effective and efficient cleaning method to be run between batches

PFAS_diagram- Flow path of SPE-03 based on two valves

Valve 1

No contact with samples.
Handles solvents, nitrogen & air

Valve 2

8 Channels, each with dedicated ports for sample, syringe pump and cartridge

1 of 8 Channels

Flow path of SPE-03 based on two valves

Since 2018, the SPE-03 was validated for background encompassing over 40 PFAS compounds. The following results were obtained from a customer lab running 8 blanks following EPA Method 537.1, concentrations are in [ng/L].


How SPE-03 Achieves Good PFAS Recovery

Controlled Flow Rates

The SPE-03 uses positive-pressure syringe pumps to deliver solvents and samples at set flow rates through the SPE cartridges. Not only does this approach prevent drying of sorbent material, it maintains uniform flow even when cartridges are clogged. 

Sample Bottle Rinsing

The MOD-004 configuration uses a strong jet of solvent to rinse sample bottles. Built-in resonators shake the bottles while rinsing to achieve maximum coverage. The shake feature also removes large water droplets from sample bottles after rinsing to reduce water content in the final elution.

SPE Cartridge Soaking

A time-based wait can be added to the extraction protocol for soaking SPE cartridges during pre-conditioning or elution. This has been suggested by EPA Method 537.1 to improve the recovery of PFBS and PFHxA.

IDC and MRL results obtained from customer lab performing EPA Method 537.1

IDC - 4 x 50ppt LFBs

Requirements: Mean < ±30%, RSD < 20%

IDC Result from Lab performing EPA 537.1

MRL - 7 x 2ppt LFBs

Requirements: Mean ± HRPIR < ±50%

MRL Result from Lab performing EPA 537.1

Covering a Wide Range of PFAS Methods


Since the success of automating EPA Method 537, the SPE-03 has been utilized by laboratories for:

Other Features


Smallest 8-Channel SPE
34cm x 34cm x 45cm (W x D x H)

Fully Parallel

Each step performed simultaneously across samples


by government, commercial and research labs worldwide

SPE-03 PFAS settings in lab