Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

To improve the accuracy of chemical molecule structure analysis, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) combines the functions of Gas Chromatography (GC) and Mass Spectrometry (MS). Drug detection, fire investigati on, environmental analysis, investigating explosives, and identifying unidentified materials are some applications of GC-MS. Utilizing its extensive network of laboratories, Infinita Lab, USA, provides this test to its clients in the USA and other locations.... Read More

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Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) utilizes Gas chromatography (GC) to separate a chemical mixture into individual molecules followed by Mass spectrometry (MS) to identify the molecules. These two distinct micro-analytical techniques are coupled together in the GC-MS.

Gas Chromatography utilizes the principle that intermolecular (physical adsorption) forces between molecules in a gas and a solid surface depend upon the molecular structure and the nature of the solid surface. In a gas chromatograph, the sample chemical mixture is vaporized in an oven and transported by an inert carrier gas into a column (packed or capillary), containing the solid phase (termed stationary phase). The molecules carried in the gas (termed mobile phase), are eluted at different times from the column depending on the affinity of molecules for the stationary phase. The eluted molecules are detected when they exit the column with the signal intensity (peak) characterizing the nature and amount of each molecule. GC has limitations in distinguishing between molecules with identical affinity to the stationary phase, as they exit simultaneously.

Mass Spectrometry works by ionizing chemical compounds to generate charged ions, with a range of molecular masses. The ions are then accelerated in an electric field and separated in vacuum, depending on their mass as well as their charge. The separated ions are analyzed by spectrometry principles. Individual compounds have their own unique mass spectrum since every pure compound always produces the same family of ions. The Mass Spectrometry technique requires a very pure sample and does not work well for mixtures. Various methods for ionization such as electron ionization, chemical ionization and cold electron ionization are used, depending on the application. Mass Spectrometers can work in both full scan  and selective ion monitoring (SIM) modes.

By combining the functionalities of GC and MS, the GC-MS technique dramatically enhances analytical accuracy, overcoming the limitations of each.

Video 01: Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

Common Uses of Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

  • Drug detection –  To identify drugs and/or poisons in biological samples from suspects, victims, or the deceased, forensic toxicologists frequently utilize GC-MS. Target chemicals are extracted from blood plasma as part of the sample preparation process in GC-MS techniques used for drug screening.
  • Forensic investigations – As it is utilized to conduct a 100% specific test that positively detects the presence of a specific chemical, GC-MS has come to be known as the “gold standard” for forensic substance identification.
  • Environmental analysis – The preferred tool for monitoring organic contaminants in the environment is now GC-MS. The dependability of GC-MS equipment has improved while the price has reduced dramatically, which has led to a rise in its use in environmental investigations.
  • Analysis of food, beverages, and perfumes – Numerous aromatic compounds are found in foods and beverages, some of which are naturally present in the raw materials and others of which are formed during processing. These chemicals are extensively analyzed by GC-MS. Additionally, it is used to test and detect impurities from adulteration or spoilage that may be harmful and are frequently under the authority of governmental organizations, such as pesticides.

 Advantages of Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

  • Extremely sensitive and accurate technique

 Limitations of Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

  • The high temperatures (300°C) used in the GC-MS injection port (and oven) can cause thermal degradation of injected molecules affecting accuracy

 Industrial Applications of Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

  • Research and development
  • Quality control
  • Toxicology studies
  • Forensics
  • Drug abuse prevention
  • Environmental analysis

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    FAQs on Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

    How does Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) work?

    Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) utilizes Gas chromatography (GC) to separate a chemical mixture into individual molecules followed by Mass spectrometry (MS) to identify the molecules. These two distinct micro-analytical techniques are coupled together in the GC-MS.

    What gases are used in GC-MS?

    In GC-MS analysis, the carrier gas is usually helium, nitrogen or hydrogen. Hydrogen gas is preferred over helium as it is cheaper, readily available, and easier to handle.

    What solvent is used for GC-MS?

    The choice of solvent for GC-MS analysis mainly depends on the compounds that need to be separated and identified. They should be soluble in the solvent. The solvent should also not contaminate the exterior of the injector port and septa. This happens when the space of the liner is not considered and the solvent expands too far.

    What cannot be tested on a GC-MS?

    Polar, non-volatile, and thermally labile compounds cannot be detected by GC-MS analyses.

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