Molecular diagnostics

Molecular diagnostics

The workgroup molecular diagnostics is a tight cooperation of BOKU and the Vienna University of Technology. The group develops DNA-based methods for food analysis. The focus of the research are simple and rapid methods to detect - mostly undesired - ingredients due to their specific genetic fingerprint.

The work of the group includes the entire analytical procedure of extracting high quality DNA from complex sample material, amplification of even trace amounts of DNA and visualization of the produced signal with simple means like test strips or a change of color in a reaction tube. At the center of interest are

  • molds and their toxins
  • food allergens
  • genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • animal species (e.g. horse meat adulterations)

Contact: kurt.brunner(at)

Further information:

Biorefinery Analytics

The research group „Biorefinery Analytics” is concerned with the chemical characterization of plant biomass, especially in complex mixtures obtained in biorefinery approaches. A high number of analytical methods is available in the group, which can cover almost all qualities of organic molecules. The choice of separation and detection method is made according to the requirements of the analytical question.

Plant biomass is a particularly complex mixture of a broad range of compounds with very heterogenous properties. Therefore, specialized methods have to be developed for each analytical problem. The choices of sample treatment, chromatographic and/or spectroscopic method and data handling have to meet the requirements of the analytical questions and the restrictions imposed by the sample.

When current technologies are insufficient to answer the question, methods need to be developed further. We are focusing in this regard on high-performance thin layer chromatography hyphenated to mass spectrometry (HPTLC-MS), bioactivity screening on HPTLC plates or selective fluorescence labeling.

Exemplary sample material include extracts from leaves and bark, essential oils, mono- and oligosaccharides, non-cellulosic polysaccharides, secondary metabolites of plants and fungi and natural antioxidants.

Contact: Dr. Stefan Böhmdorfer

Further information:

NMR Spectroscopy

The work group “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy” is concerned with structure elucidation of organic molecules and the analysis and characterization of complex mixtures at the atomic/molecular level. It is a powerful analytical supporting tool for the other work groups in the Division of Chemistry of Renewables. NMR spectroscopy can be done either with dissolved compounds (liquid state NMR) as well as with gel-like or solid compounds (solid state NMR) – both methods require different hardware equipment which is available in our group.

Liquid state NMR is performed on a 400 MHz magnet equipped with a dual broadband probe with z-gradients. By using state-of-the-art one- and multidimensional homo- and heteronuclear experiments, structure elucidation, conformational analysis or purity checks of synthesized products or isolated plant metabolites are performed as well as measurements of reaction kinetics and analysis of complex mixtures – such as natural and technical lignins, cellulose and polysaccharide degradation mixtures – and biorefinery fractions. According to demand, various other techniques such as measurements of heteronuclei other than 13C, experiments at variable temperatures, quantitative estimation of different functional groups, diffusion experiments and many more are performed in close collaboration with the other work groups.

On the other hand, many properties of materials are lost in solution or moreover some samples are simply not soluble in some solvent. For the characterization of these materials we have a second 400 MHz magnet equipped for solid state NMR. Gel-like samples, such as many polysaccharides, carbohydrates, lignin derivatives or aerogels, can be investigated with our hr-mas probe (high resolution magic angle spinning), whereas for solids and crystalline organic compounds all variants concerning cp-mas (cross polarization magic angle spinning) are placed at disposal.

Contact: Dr. Markus Bacher

Further information: