Analysis of carbonaceous biomarkers with the Mars Organic Analyzer microchip capillary electrophoresis system: aldehydes and ketones

Electrophoresis. 2010 Nov;31(22):3642-9. doi: 10.1002/elps.201000424. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


A microchip CE method is developed for the analysis of two oxidized forms of carbon, aldehydes and ketones, with the Mars Organic Analyzer (MOA). Fluorescent derivitization is achieved in ∼ 15 min by hydrazone formation with Cascade Blue hydrazide in 30 mM borate pH 5-6. The microchip CE separation and analysis method is optimized via separation in 30 mM borate buffer, pH 9.5, at 20°C. A carbonyl standard consisting of ten aldehydes and ketones found in extraterrestrial matter is successfully separated; the resulting LOD depends on the reactivity of the compound and range from 70 pM for formaldehyde to 2 μM for benzophenone. To explore the utility of this method for analyzing complex samples, analyses of several fermented beverages are conducted, identifying ten aldehydes and ketones ranging from 30 nM to 5 mM. A Martian regolith simulant sample, consisting of a basalt matrix spiked with soluble ions and acetone, is designed and analyzed, but acetone is found to have a limited detectable lifetime under simulant Martian conditions. This work establishes the capability of the MOA for studying aldehydes and ketones, a critical class of oxidized organic molecules of interest in planetary and in terrestrial environmental and health studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / analysis*
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Borates / chemistry
  • Electrophoresis, Microchip / methods*
  • Exobiology / methods
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ketones / analysis*
  • Mars
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / chemistry
  • Soil / chemistry


  • Aldehydes
  • Biomarkers
  • Borates
  • Ketones
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Soil
  • Cascade Blue