Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry (GC–MS) with Cold Electron Ionization (EI): Bridging the Gap Between GC–MS and LC–MS
Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) with cold electron ionization (EI) is based on interfacing the GC and MS instruments with supersonic molecular beams (SMB) along with electron ionization of vibrationally cold sample compounds in SMB in a fly-through ion source (hence the name cold EI). GC–MS with cold EI improves all the central performance aspects of GC–MS. These aspects include enhanced molecular ions, improved sample identification, an extended range of compounds amenable for analysis, uniform response to all analytes, faster analysis, greater selectivity, and lower detection limits. In GC–MS with cold EI, the GC elution temperatures can be significantly lowered by reducing the column length and increasing the carrier gas flow rate. Furthermore, the injector temperature can be reduced using a high column flow rate, and sample degradation at the cold EI fly-through ion source is eliminated. Thus, a greater range of thermally labile and low volatility compounds can be analyzed. The extension of the range of compounds and applications amenable for analysis is the most important benefit of cold EI that bridges the gap with LC–MS. Several examples of GC–MS with cold EI applications are discussed including cannabinoids analysis, synthetic organic compounds analysis, and lipids in blood analysis for medical diagnostics.