Research Description - Michelle M. Bushey --last changed 12/16/10


My current research interests are in the area of chemical separations. I have a growing interest in the application of analytical techniques to the analysis of art and artifacts.



Capillary Electrophoresis (CE) is a separation technique that has generated considerable interest in the analytical and biochemistry fields. CE separates analytes on the basis of electrophoretic mobility differences in an instrumental format. Extremely high separation efficiencies in the hundreds of thousands and millions of theoretical plates can be obtained in generally less than 20 minutes with automated and semi-automated equipment. The technique requires only small amounts of reagents and samples. 


Capillary Electrochromatography (CEC) is a blending of liquid chromatography and capillary electrophoresis. The separation takes place in a capillary tube filled with a stationary phase. We are using porous polymer monoliths as the stationary phase. Transport through the column is the result of electroosmotic flow or a combination of electroosmotic and pressure driven flow. Separation can be based on partitioning alone or a combination of partitioning and electrophoresis.


Several of the links listed on my 'links page' have excellent descriptions of CE, some of these include animated cartoons.

We seek to further basic understanding of the separation mechanisms of organic polymer monoliths used in capillary electrochromatography (CEC). This is accomplished by measuring various analyte diffusion coefficients, as related to both the mobile and stationary phases, as a function of retention factor. These experiments, and the resulting relationships uncovered between diffusion and retention will elucidate if long held assumptions can be properly applied to separation systems utilizing the popular porous polymer monoliths. While similar studies have been done in HPLC systems for both traditional packing material and silica monolithic materials, no such complete studies have as yet been reported for organic porous polymers nor for polymers used in a capillary electrochromatographic mode. Thus, the results of this work will create a critically needed foundation upon which further investigations can build. Only by developing this fundamental understanding of how these separation mechanisms work can we hope to design better, more useful, and more efficient systems.


A potential second project is taking shape. This would be a collaborative project developed by M. Bushey and personnel from a local museum. This would involve the XRF analysis of objects of art and archeological interest. The XRF instrument provides elemental analysis of the surface of objects. Analysis of metal coins, pottery shards, and glazes can sometimes reveal information as to their origin. Analysis of paintings can suggest which particular pigments were used by the artists. This can in turn confirm or refute a suspected date of creation.

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