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Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) Applications

By Susha Cheriyedath, MSc

Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is a hybrid analytical technique that couples the separation capabilities of GC with the detection properties of MS to provide a higher efficiency of sample analyses. While GC can separate volatile components in a sample, MS helps fragment the components and identify them on the basis of their mass.

GC-MS provides enhanced sample identification, higher sensitivity, an increased range of analyzable samples, and faster results, which enable a whole new range of applications for GC-MS in several areas.

Medicine

GC-MS is used in screening tests for the detection of several congenital metabolic diseases.  It detects trace levels of compounds present in the urine of patients with genetic metabolic disorders. It can also detect the presence of oils in ointments, creams, and lotions.

Environmental Monitoring

Monitoring environmental pollutants is a major application of GC-MS. It is widely used in the detection of dibenzofurans, dioxins, herbicides, sulfur, pesticides, phenols, and chlorophenols in air, soil, and water.

Food and Fragrance Analysis

Aromatic compounds such as fatty acids, esters, aldehydes, alcohols, and terpenes present in food and beverages can be easily analyzed using GC-MS.  The technique can also be used to detect c spoilage or contamination of food. The analysis of a wide range of oils such as lavender oil, olive oil, spearmint oil, and essential oils, perfumes, fragrances, allergens, menthol, and syrups is also possible using GC-MS.

Healthcare and lab solutions provider, Perkin Elmer’s GC-MS systems offer accurate data and greater insights into a wide range of identification and quantitation needs in environmental, food, forensic, and industrial applications. The company’s GC-MS systems can be used in the analysis of several volatile and semi-volatile compounds and delivers highly sensitive and high-throughput processing.

Pharmaceutical Applications

In the pharmaceutical industry, GC-MS is used in research and development, production, and quality control. It is used in identification of impurities in active pharmaceutical ingredients. In medicinal chemistry, GC-MS is used in the synthesis and characterization of compounds and in pharmaceutical biotechnology.

Forensic Applications

Using GC-MS, fire debris analysis can be performed as per the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) standards. GC-MS is widely used in forensic toxicology to identify poisons and steroids in biological specimens and in anti-doping labs to detect performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids.

Life science instruments manufacturer, Agilent offers single and triple quadrupole GC-MS  systems that are very sensitive with low detection limits and are suitable for forensics applications, food testing and toxicology analysis.

Biological Analysis

GC-MS can be used for the bioanalysis of body fluids to detect narcotics, barbiturates, alcohols, and drugs such as anticonvulsants, anesthetics, antihistamines, sedative hypnotics, and anti-epileptic drugs. It is also useful in detecting pollutants and metabolites in serum and in fatty acid profiling in microbes.

GC-MS systems from scientific solution provider, Thermo Fischer Scientific are coupled with software that helps streamline GC-MS workflows and data and can be seamlessly integrated with food, environmental, forensic and clinical applications.

Chemical Warfare

Explosive detection systems in public places use GC-MS technique for the analysis and detection of chemical warfare agents.

Geochemical Research

Due to its structurally significant mass spectral peaks, extended range of analyzable low volatility samples, enhanced molecular ions, and valuable isotope ratio information, GC-MS is a powerful tool for geochemical applications. GC-MS has been used to analyze the atmosphere of Venus and has also been used by the Viking program on Mars. Additionally, a chiral GC-MS system has been used by the Rosetta mission to analyze the materials in the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Industrial Applications

GC-MS is ideal for the analysis of inorganic gases and aromatic solvents, detection of impurities and allergens in cosmetics.  It is also used in the synthesis of cellulose acetate, polyethylene, polyvinyl, and synthetic fibers.

Therefore we may conclude that automated GC-MS systems offer rapid and reproducible results in several applications.

Reviewed by BSc (Hons)

References

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2016

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