2011 Gas Chromatography Product Survey Results

Gas chromatography (GC) was at one time commonly called “GLC,” where the “L” stands for liquid. Find out the results of our latest GC survey here.


Gas chromatography (GC) was at one time commonly called “GLC,” where the “L” stands for liquid. Inside GC columns are particles of a ceramic or inert material coated with an extremely viscous liquid stationary phase that interacts with the analyte. By contrast, HPLC stationary phases are bonded to the base material. GC is a common technique used in analytical chemistry for separating and analyzing compounds that can be vaporized without decomposition. GC is typically used for separating the different components of a mixture, improving the purity of a particular substance, or identifying a particular compound. GC makes it possible to separate the volatile components of a very small sample and to determine the amount of each component present. The essentials required for the method are an injection port through which samples are loaded, a “column” on which the components are separated, a regulated flow of a carrier gas which carries the sample through the instrument, a detector, and a data processor. In gas chromatography, the temperature of the injection port, column, and detector are controlled by thermostatted heaters.

In gas chromatography, the mobile phase is a carrier gas, usually an inert gas such as helium or an unreactive gas such as nitrogen. The gaseous compounds being analyzed interact with the walls of the column, which is coated with different stationary phases. This causes each compound to elute at a different time, known as the retention time of the compound. The comparison of retention times is what gives GC its analytical usefulness. The most widely used gas selected by the respondents is helium and cylinders (standard – 46 percent and portable – 19 percent) are the number source for delivery.

Different types of gases respondents use:

Helium 23%
Hydrogen 19%
Nitrogen 17%
Air, industrial 9%
Zero air gas (9%
Argon 7%
Oxygen 5%
Other 9%

Many GC systems are available as basic units that can accommodate different detectors and different sample injectors. This allows users to customize the GC system according to their own particular needs, providing full flexibility. If you are in the market for a new GC system, vendors recommend that you should first choose a base system, then a detector type and, finally, a method of sample introduction. The base system is the fundamental part of the modular GC unit, accommodating the GC column and basic hardware. GC detectors have been evolving rapidly to provide greater sensitivity. Flame ionization detectors (FIDs) have been the most widely used, as they detect any molecule containing carbon. Numerous other detector types have been introduced over the years, but the most interesting is the mass detector, which is essentially a miniaturized mass spectrometer. Mass detectors provide unequivocal identification of peaks emerging from the chromatograph based on the molecules’ molecular weights and fragmentation patterns. Other detectors are sensitive only to specific types of substances, or work well only in narrower ranges of concentrations

Flame ionization (FID) 31%
Mass spectrometer 25%
Thermal conductivity (TCD) 15%
Electron capture (ECD) 11%
Nitrogen-phosphorus 5%
Flame photometric (FPD) 5%
Photo-ionization (PID) 5%
Hall electrolytic conductivity 2%
Other 2%

Although many of the chromatographic instrumental techniques have matured and automation is commonplace, sample preparation is still considered to be slow, labor-intensive, and even a bottleneck in laboratory processes. Some high-throughput laboratories take advantage of the latest autosampling technology to process hundreds and sometimes thousands of samples a day.

Related gas chromatograph components respondents are using in their lab:

Autosampler 24%
Data system 24%
Regulators, valves, fittings 22%
Headspace sampler 11%
Purge & trap 10%
Gas generator 8%

For the service and repair of their GC instrument, 45 percent of the respondents use instrument manufacturers either as a service contract or time and material.

Instrument manufacturer service contract 23%
Instrument manufacturer time/material 22%
Our department 20%
In-house service department 12%
Third-party contract 10%
Third-party time/material 8%
Multi-vendor service provider 4%
Other 1%

Around the mid-1980s, column chromatography began to give way to capillary column GC, in which the liquid phase is coated onto the inner walls of a thin capillary tube that can be anywhere from 15 to 100 meters long, and wound into a coil. Capillary column chromatography represented a significant advance in the field and greatly improved the ability of columns to separate the multiple components found in complex drug and arson samples. However, a few applications still require packed columns.

The most common problems respondents encounter with their GC columns are “short column life” and “interactions with sample or solvent.” Problems respondents encounter with GC columns:

Short column lifetime 23%
Interactions with sample or solvent 22%
Low reproducibility after changing columns/batches 18%
Low repeatability 11%
Lack of support from vendor 11%
Poor documentation 7%
Pressure increase 6%
Other 3%

Top ten features / factors that are important to respondents in the decision-making process for a new GC system:

Accuracy 96%
Availability of supplies and accessories 83%
Ease of maintenance 85%
Easy transfer of methods 84%
Price 85%
Quality of data 92%
Resolution 85%
Ruggedness and reliability 87%
Sensitivity 89%
Service and support 90%

Completed Surveys: 223

For more information on gas chromatography systems, visit www.labmanager.com/GC

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Categories: Surveys

Published In

Communicating Science Magazine Issue Cover
Communicating Science

Published: November 1, 2011

Cover Story

Communicating Science

The scientific community has historically taken a dim view of communications with nonscientific publics. No thanks, said scientists. What an imposition! Why bother? What good could possibly come from interrupting research, sticking our necks out and dumbing it down for non-scientific dunderheads, only to see them mismanage our findings?