Analytical Research Laboratory

Volumetric flasks

The Southern Cross Analytical Research Services (SCARS) sits within the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) portfolio and provides commercial and research analytical services from two key teams Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL) and Analytical Research Laboratory (ARL). The team of technical and specialist staff and, in addition to the internal services available, works closely with external laboratories and other University School and Research teams, to provide comprehensive analysis services. 

The EAL offers a range of testing procedures, specialising in agricultural, landscape and environmental soil plant, acid sulfate, rock, compost, potting mix, hair, contaminant and water testing.

The ARL plays a key role in providing the private and public sector with a range of phytochemical analytical services and quality testing of pharmaceutical raw materials and products to satisfy regulatory requirements

ARL is accredited by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The group provides research support services to researchers at Southern Cross University and collaborating academic and commercial institutions.

ARL Services

  • Authentication of herbal raw materials including extracts
  • Quantitative analysis of active/marker compounds in herbs, nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements
  • Essential oils
  • Fixed (fatty acid) oils
  • Physical testing of plant raw materials
  • Chemical and physical analysis of common formulatory excipients
  • ORAC (anti-oxidant) testing
  • Method development and validation
  • Inorganic compound determination

Fatty Acid Profiling

The quality and origin of lipid products is examined by gas chromatography of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) derivatised from lipid sources such as triglycerides and phospholipids. FAMEs GC profiles are measured by Area % normalisation. Different fixed oil products are characterised by specific Area % proportions of the various FAMES.

Lipid Compositional Analysis

FAMEs analysis is a rationalisation of the more complex lipids from which component fatty acids are derived. It is sometimes useful to examine the lipid profile in its underivatised form to understand the true composition of a substance. This is achieved by HPLC profiling.

Fixed oils comprised of triglycerides, diglycerides and free fatty acids can be derivatised into methyl esters of component fatty acids and profiled by GC. These fingerprints are compared to compendial and in-house specifications for authentication purposes. The same process can also be used for quantitative analysis of individual fatty acids. Beyond this tri- and diglycerides can be analysed by HPLC-MS to ascertain their respective fatty acid composition and chain sequence. Typical services include authentication of vegetable oils and quantitative determination of EPA/DHA in fish oils.

Herb authentication is a quality assurance process that ensures the correct plant species and plant parts are used as raw materials for herbal medicines. The proper authentication of herbal raw materials is critically important to the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines.

A Herbal Authentication and Identification Service is provided to industry and growers on a fee-for-service basis. We can authenticate hundreds of plant species and essential oils.

To inquire about the Herbal Authentication and Identification Service, contact Dr. Joshua Smith on +61 2 6620 3332 or via email at [email protected].

The Australian Government's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has released a document outlining the identification tests manufacturers are required to apply to herbal materials and extracts.

Access Australian Government's Therapeutic Goods Administration on the TGA's website.

Quality Control

  • ARL provides analytical services for quality control of plant products for the pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors
  • The laboratory is licensed by the TGA and APVMA for chemical and physical analysis of products for human and veterinary consumption.

Method Development and Validation

ARL actively develops and validates:

  • Novel analytical methods and techniques
  • Customised analytical methods for formulated products
  • Method Validation is applied to ICH guidelines.

One of the three main areas ARL offers research and commercial expertise in is the quantitative analysis of target compounds of interest in natural products.  We look at a wide range of materials, from raw materials such as seeds or plant roots, through to finished commercially available products including vitamins, supplements and beauty care products. 

Testing is performed according to international pharmacopeia, mainly the British and United States pharmacopeia, as well as ARL methods developed from published literature or evolved from our strong ties with our university research colleagues. 

Instrumentation utilised includes LCMS, HPLC-DAD; HPLC-ELSD; GMCS, GC-FID and UV spectrophotometry.

Quality Assessment

ARL provides quality control services for essential oil products. These include:

  • GC (Gas Chromatography) compositional analysis
  • Physical assessment (Optical Rotation, Refractive Index, Density, Organoleptic)
  • Essential oil processing and extraction - Distillation, Preparation of Absolutes.

Research Services

  • Reverse engineering of flavours and fragrances
  • Analysis of novel essential oils and essential oil compounds
  • Brophy Essential Oil Collection
  • Oil yield from plant material can be determined by steam distillation

ARL has extensive knowledge and research experience in the analysis and characterisation of essential oil phytochemistry. Essential oils are profiled for authenticity against compendial and in-house specifications.

We work closely with the following peak bodies and industry associations:

Complete list of identified essential oils

The Analytical Research Laboratory designs and coordinates shelf life stability trials for herbal and functional food products. ARL has both humidity controlled and ambient humidity stability ovens for establishment of formulated product stability trials.

Stability trials are designed in accordance with ICH guidelines for determination of accurate product shelf life. Included in this service are forced degradation studies for identification of stability indicating compounds. The range of testing services available at ARL can be utilised at testing time-points to provide a complete stability package.

The Analytical Research Laboratory (ARL) manages a Plant Extraction and Natural Products Production pilot Facility. This is dedicated to natural product and process development including contract manufacturing, serving the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, veterinary and biotechnology industries.

The ARL Extraction Facility has the capability to grind, extract, filter, concentrate and dry large quantities of plant material. The ARL Plant Extraction Facility routinely processes quantities ranging from a few hundred grams to several hundred kilograms, filling the gap between laboratory and industrial scale operations.

ARL Extraction Facility services include:

  • New product development and registration support
  • Process development, scale-up and validation
  • Sample preparation (grinding and drying)
  • Temperature controlled percolation
  • Accelerated solvent extraction
  • Steam and vacuum distillation
  • Solvent recovery
  • Concentration to specification
  • Freeze drying capabilities
  • Walk in temperature controlled drying and storage

Pilot and semi-commercial scale extraction vessels are constructed from 316 stainless steel or glass, vessel capacities range include 10L, 15L, 50L and 500L.

Mineral analysis

Mineral analysis (including heavy metals and silica) is sub-contracted to the SCU Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL) who are NATA accredited for this service. Testing is performed primarily on ICP-MS/OES.


Microbiology is sub-contracted to preferred TGA licensed testing laboratories. Services are limited to standard QA release tests.

  • Freeze-drying
  • Archiving reference material
  • Low humidity storage for seed, plant tissue and extracts
  • Herbarium - voucher specimens


ARL full staff photo