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2012 Gas Chromatography Product Survey Results

Two interesting and fairly recent trends in GC systems are “fast GC” and the use of hydrogen as the carrier gas.

by Lab Manager

Two interesting and fairly recent trends in GC systems are “fast GC” and the use of hydrogen as the carrier gas. Hydrogen is much less expensive than helium. It also has superior optimal linear velocity and produces a very low effective plate height, meaning more theoretical plates are available for a given column length. Because of its lower density relative to helium, hydrogen works extremely well with very narrow-bore columns. Fast GC provides benefits of lower instrument and human resource costs, higher revenues for high-throughput testing or service labs, and more rapid method development. Perhaps best of all, these benefits accrue with no additional capital investment. Ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography, by comparison, requires purchasing an instrument capable of generating and withstanding high backpressures. Fast GC is achieved by shortening column length, ramping up temperatures faster, and raising the carrier gas flow rate. The negative effects on resolution are countered by narrowing the column’s internal diameter, reducing the film thickness, and (a second trend) switching from helium to hydrogen carrier.

According to Agilent Technologies’ website, troubleshooting your GC system starts with isolating the problem:

Is it injection, flow, column, detection, electronic or some combination?

The company adds users should know what can and can’t cause the symptom and what to do about it:

• Broad solvent peak–injector problems, technique, sample problems
• Split peaks–injector problems, mixed solvent
• No peaks –wasn’t introduced, wasn’t detected
• Bonus peaks–In Sample or Back Flash
• Response changes–activity, inlet discrimination, detector problem
• Peak tailing–flow path or activity
• Peak fronting–overload or solubility mismatch
• Shifting retention–leaks, column aging, contamination or damage
• Loss of resolution–peak broadening, separation decreasing
• Baseline disturbances–column bleed, contamination, temperature
• Noisy or spiking baseline–electrical or contaminated detector
• Negative or flat-topped peaks–detector problems
• Quantitation problems–activity, inlet or detector problems

Troubleshooting tips courtesy of Agilent Technologies

The types of GC columns our readers use in their labs include the following:

One single porosity column 40%
One mixed bed/linear/multipore column 29%
Two or more mixed bed/linear/multipore columns 12%
Two or more single porosity columns 17%
Mixed bed/linear/multipore column with oligomer column 2%

The types of gases survey respondents use include:

Helium 22%
Acetylene 1%
Air, industrial 10%
Argon 7%
Carbon dioxide 4%
Cryogenic 2%
Hydrogen 20%
Nitrogen 19%
Nitrous oxide 1%
Oxygen 4%
Propane 1%
Zero air gas (9%
Other 1%

Type(s) of detector(s) our readers use with their GC instrument:

Flame ionization (FID) 34%
Thermal conductivity (TCD) 12%
Electron capture (ECD) 14%
Nitrogen-phosphorus 2%
Flame photometric (FPD) 5%
Photo-ionization (PID) 3%
Mass spectrometer 26%
Other 3%

Our readers’ top ten most important features/factors they look for in a GC system include:

Quality of data 93%
Resolution 93%
Precise and accurate flow rates 91%
Sensitivity 91%
Accuracy 89%
Ease of maintenance 86%
Service and support 84%
Ruggedness and reliability 81%
Availability of supplies and accessories 78%
Price 78%


For more information on GC systems, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit

See the most recent survey results