A dedicated GC–MS analyser was developed to address the increasing need for more sensitive catalyst poisoner analysis. The system combines the separation power and robustness of a classic backflush configuration with the selectivity and sensitivity of mass spectrometry.
For decades, process chemical and petrochemical analysts used to address their analytical challenges mainly by relying on superior chromatography and smart tools such as valve switching, backflush and Dean's heart-cut. In combination with relatively cheap, robust and selective detectors, they were capable of providing all information necessary to control and tweak petrochemical processes.
Mass spectrometry (MS) is hardly used in petrochemical QC laboratories, which is primarily because of its apparent complexity and higher cost-of-ownership. Nonetheless, MS detection has several distinct advantages over classic analogue detectors. In full scan acquisition mode, for example, it allows tracking and identification of unknown components using spectral deconvolution and subsequent library matching. In selective ion monitoring (SIM) mode, on the contrary, MS permits trace and ultratrace quantification of target analytes which is often superior to classic selective detectors. Furthermore, MS permits the use of mass labelled internal standards (ISs) that behave identically to their native analogues, which has a positive effect on overall method precision and accuracy. It is no surprise that instrument manufacturers have invested substantially in solutions aimed at reducing overall MS complexity and total cost-of-ownership in the last couple of years. Easy tune and calibration functionalities, increased sensitivity and speed, new acquisition modes and elegant solutions that eliminate downtime, such as vacuum lock technology, have contributed largely in this respect.
This article gives an overview of the main characteristics and performance of a new gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC–MS) analyser that has been recently developed. The system combines the chromatographic separation power and backflush/Dean's heart-cut capabilities of a classic oxygenate analyser with the orthogonal separation power, sensitivity, selectivity and overall robustness of the latest generation single quadrupole mass spectrometers.