The mixture to be analyzed is vaporized to the input of a column, which contains a solid or liquid active substance called stationary phase, and then is conveyed there by means of a carrier gas (or vector gas).
The different molecules will be separated from the mixture and from column one after the other after a period of time which depends on the affinity of these molecules with stationary phase.
The history of gas chromatography begins in 1952, when Richard Laurence Millington Synge and Archer John Porter Martin announced the birth of gas chromatography. This technique has experienced its heyday between 1955 and 1960, with the invention of capillary columns by Marcel Jules Edouard Golay (1957), the argon ionization detector (1958), followed by flame ionization detector (1958) and electron capture detector (1960). Since the 1960s, progress has focused on the instrumentation and helped make viable all these inventions. From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, considerable research has been undertaken to enable the analysis of all the families of chemicals, particularly through the development of new injectors and capillary columns.
Gas chromatography devices are called chromatographs. There are chromatographs of different sizes, starting from portable ones (approx. 10 kg) designed for field analysis, to those used in the purification of rare gases. Thus, Air Liquide Company has designed and manufactured a large chromatograph for the purification of krypton and xenon.
To complete the analysis, chromatographs are often equipped with other analytical instruments including mass spectrometry and infrared spectroscopy.
In perfumery, the human nose is also used as a highly sensitive detector certain odor molecules. For this, part of the gaseous flow leaving the column is cooled and humidified before being directed to a nose cone, which allows the operator to perceive the odor of the compounds or separate. This equipment is called GC- olfactometer or GCO.
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