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Cranking Up the Heat in our Chromatography Lab

New volatile compound testing capabilities permits samples to be exposed to temperatures of up to 300°C before sampling from the headspace.

GC-MS analyses continues to play a vital role in industries relying on chemical separation to identify volatile compounds. SGS PSI has invested in new gas chromatography instrumentation that can heat samples up to 300°C before sampling the headspace.  This allows for testing samples at higher temperatures to duplicate specific processing or environmental conditions.  We can screen for volatile compounds produced by polymers at higher temperatures, like those used in extrusion, molding, or 3D printing processes.  These processes typically require temperatures in excess of 200°C.  This is a common upper temperature limitation for many headspace GC-MS instruments.

Further benefits include aiding in EHS concerns for emitted odors during processing.  This could be in reference to general screens for employee safety, a new grade of resin that needs its processing conditions refined, or a new lot of an incumbent resin that is now producing an odor.  This technique isn’t limited to just thermoplastics though.  Contact an expert to discuss your specific needs.

Chromatography is one of the most popular laboratory methods. Our labs use multiple chromatography techniques to separate and identify complex mixtures. The instrument is generally composed of a stationary phase (column) and a mobile phase.  Once the prepared sample is injected into the instrument, the different compounds are carried with the flow of a mobile phase through the column.  As the sample passes through the column, the various analytes present interact with the stationary phase in a different manner.  Because of this, they move through the column at different rates which allows them to be separated and analyzed individually.

Gas chromatography (GC) is used to separate, analyze, and identify volatile and semi-volatile compounds that can be vaporized without decomposition.

The GC is paired with a detector which distinguishes the various individual compounds after separation on the column.  The detector is typically either a flame ionization detector (FID), a mass spectrometer (MS), or a combination of both if the analysis requires.  FID is valuable for quantitative analyses of known compounds while MS is valuable for identification of unknown compounds.  The use of both detectors simultaneously is another new feature of the instrument and is an uncommon but highly valuable detection method in certain circumstances.

  • Headspace gas chromatography (HS GC)  – is used to test solid or liquid samples and the volatile compounds emitted from them under different temperatures.  The sample is sealed in a headspace vial and heated to drive the sample’s volatile compounds into a gaseous state before sampling.
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)  – is typically used when the sample is a complex mixture of unknowns.  The sensitivity and specificity of GC-MS allows us to identify even the smallest traces of compounds in the mixture.  Unknown compounds are identified with the mass spectrometer after separation of those compounds occurs on the column.
  • Headspace Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (HS GC-MS)  – is used when unknown compounds in the gaseous state need to be identified.  This is a combination of the above two methods and is used to identify volatile compounds being emitted from samples.  This could be related to an unknown odor during material processing, screening for residual solvents in packaging materials, or screening for residual volatile compounds left over during a manufacturing process.  With our new capabilities, we can expose samples to temperatures ranging from room temperature to 300°C.

Results are more than just data and data isn’t helpful if it doesn’t answer the question being asked. 

SGS Polymer Solutions is a lab that is inherently conversational allowing us to better meet the needs of our clients through collaborative efforts across many scientific specialties.

We work hard to understand our clients’ testing requirements, their processes, and materials. Identifying what needs to be accomplished and how best to provide the data required is essential. Unlike other labs, we provide one-on-one technical guidance from your first point of contact through end of project to ensure the best service possible.

At SGS PSI you get a wide range of skills and expertise in different topics and take a collaborative approach so we can solve your complex problems. Discussions of challenging projects with other team members not directly involved often yield an innovative approach or a new path forward that was not obvious at first glance. Ultimately, if the results don’t help solve the problem or aren’t applicable to your business’s needs, then what good are they?

Contact an expert if you’d like to discuss our new capabilities, and how they may benefit your business.