Gas chromatography, a versatile analytical tool for industrial applications

The characterization of materials is an essential process for the control of marketed products. Among the most common techniques to do so, we highlight gas chromatography. Therefore, in this article we explain what it is, what it consists of, its advantages and applications.

Due to the possibilities it offers, it is one of the most widely used analytical techniques today. Although liquid chromatography also exists, gas chromatography is a versatile tool used to detect, from a chemical point of view, the compounds of a mixture through a gas. Depending on the result we wish to obtain or the sample to be analyzed, we will choose one or the other. In this sense, the gas analysis is mainly used for potentially volatile compounds, while the liquid analysis deals with those compounds that are not easily converted to gas.

Chroma (color) and graphene (recording), the origin of this methodology lies in the discovery and identification of colored substances such as chlorophyll. Silvia Pallaruelo, technical expert at Infinitia, explains: “For either type, the equipment separates the sample from a column at high temperature and it is directed towards a mass detector by which a pattern or fingerprint is obtained, something like a “fingerprint”. This is then compared with information recorded in a database and the entire analysis is completed”.

With a wide range of applications, gas chromatography can be used to analyze liquids and solids in almost any field of industry. It can even be used in forensic medicine to analyze the amount of alcohol or other drugs in the blood.

In the food industry, for example, it is used for those aspects related to the texture, smell or taste of food, but also to perform quality controls in terms of additives or pesticides that may interfere with the safety of that food product.

“Also, within the food industry, it is very useful for detecting fraud in products with high added value, such as oils and wine,” says Javier Sanz, CEO of Infinitia. “With these products you can distinguish whether the price you pay is in line with what you are offered through chromatography, making a comparison between the compounds that each oil should have,” he concludes.

Another of our most recent work in this area is focused on trying to detect certain compounds that are formed during the cooking process in an oven. Faced with this, the main problems we usually encounter is that what we want to determine is not always feasible. “It is important to know in detail what we want to find in the process in order to adjust the space as much as possible,” explains Silvia.

For the automotive industry, another case, it can be used to detect compounds that appear on any parts production line. Or to analyze odors and volatile organic compounds inside a vehicle. This is complemented by Forensic Engineering, since this department resorts to gas chromatography when more conventional techniques do not work. “With this, the names and surnames of the molecules are revealed,” says our CEO.

In short, gas chromatography is a technique for the separation and analysis of substances that make up a mixture. In fact, recently in Infinita we have reinforced our laboratory by acquiring a second equipment, due to the high number of projects and analyses requested by customers.