The separation of different ring numbered polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was accomplished by using cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) in capillary electrokinetic chromatography. In order to increase the solubilities and selectivities of PAHs, acetonitrile (ACN) was used as an organic modifier. Under the optimised conditions, 11 aromatic compounds were separated within 14.5 min in a running electrolyte containing 10 mM phosphate, 30 mM CTAB, and 40% ACN at pH 6.0. The effects of CTAB and ACN concentrations, voltage and pH on the resolution were investigated. Reproducibilities of migration times range between 0.55 and 1.27 R.S.D.% and peak areas between 1.02 and 7.23 R.S.D.%. Limit of detections (LODs) range between 0.09 and 2.24 mu g ml(-1). This new and fast separation method of PAHs was applied to cooked oil sample. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.