Molecules are abundant, everywhere, and rarely exist in pure form. Rather, they most often exist as part of complex mixtures. We interact with these complex mixtures by eating food, putting gasoline in our cars, wearing perfume, etc. The list is endless. I can only hope that one day there will be a single instrument that can provide quantitative information for every molecule in any sample with the push of a single button. But, right now there is no black box that can accomplish this goal. Instead, chromatography is the state-of-the-art.
Gas chromatography (GC) is challenging. Despite having existed for over 60 years, ‘advances’ such as capillary columns or new GCs haven’t changed the fundamentals of the technique. There still doesn’t exist a single method that works for all molecules. There are countless knobs to turn and parameters to change, and there is time to be wasted.
For identification of unknown molecules, a time-consuming process must be employed. Usually, analysis with a mass spectrometer is the first step. Then, to determine exactly how much of a molecule is present, calibration standards must be purchased (if they even exist) and analyzed so a calibration curve can be constructed. Only after all of this can true quantitative results be obtained. So, the question is: Can we change the way molecules are analyzed?
I’m excited to think that there may be an evolution coming. An evolution that will make chromatography more accessible, easier to perform, cheaper, and more accurate.
We recently published an application note describing the simultaneous identification and quantification of unknowns using a single injection. With the new method, you can now obtain quantitative information for a complex, unknown, sample in the time it takes to do a single injection. The same task can take up to two weeks with the old method. This new method is only possible now because of the invention of the Polyarc® reactor, the only device in the world that can provide quantitative information for most organic molecules without the need for calibration standards. Pairing it with a mass spectrometer by splitting at the exit of a GC column unlocks the potential to change the way molecules are analyzed.
We have applied this method to forensics (the analysis of ethanol in urine), petroleum (gasoline), food and flavors (fatty acids), and chemicals (paints) industries. I am constantly amazed at the ability of this method to quickly provide accurate compositions of complex mixtures of molecules. Instead of just taking my word for it, send us a sample with known concentrations (but unknown to us) and we will analyze it free of charge and then you can decide if this technique may truly be a step-change in the field of chromatography.