New GC Instruments and Accessories at the 57th Pittsburgh Conference

LCGC North America

LCGC North America, LCGC North America-05-01-2006, Volume 24, Issue 5
Pages: 468–478

In his annual installment, John Hinshaw takes a look at the new gas chromatography instruments and accessories that were on display at Pittcon this year.

The 57th annual Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) was held again this year in Orlando, Florida, March 12–17, 2006, at the Orange County Convention Center. After some confusion about my hotel, which had almost exactly the same name as last year's but was located on the opposite side of the convention center, I had time on Sunday to take in a few oral presentations in the expanded technical sessions on that day, as well as to peruse the poster session on new instrumentation. This year, I noted that although the overall conference attendance continued to decline, by about 2% from last year, the number of papers presented actually has steadily increased over the past few years. Another trend that continued this year is the shift from preconference postal distribution of product announcements, flyers, and invitations to visit booths to what is now a majority distribution via the world-wide web. I received a large number of exhibitor e-mail messages — more than 100 — many of which were informative and all of which saved a lot of paper and mailing expense for the originators. An additional welcome development was the deployment of a conference-wide wireless networking system — actually a number of them in parallel, according to my laptop — that made it a lot easier to stay in touch while in the convention center. After careful consideration, the Pittcon Committee has decided to hold next year's conference in Chicago, Illinois, from February 25 to March 1, 2007. Pittcon is scheduled to return to New Orleans in 2008.

This annual "GC Connections" installment reviews new gas chromatography (GC) instrumentation and accessories shown at this year's Pittcon; some of the entries were introduced earlier in 2005. For a review of new chromatography columns and accessories, please see "Column Watch" in the March and April 2006 issues of LCGC (1,2). The information presented here is based on manufacturers' replies to questionnaires received up until a few weeks before the conference, as well as on additional information from manufacturers' press releases, websites and product literature. During the conference, I took time to walk around the convention aisles and see some of the new products firsthand as well as discover a number of items that were not covered by the questionnaires. Every effort has been made to collect accurate information, but due to the preliminary nature of some of the material LCGC cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. This article cannot be considered to be a complete record of all new GC products shown at this year's Pittcon because not all manufacturers chose to respond to the questionnaire, nor is all of the submitted information included here due to the limited available space and the editor's judgment as to the suitability.

GC at Pittcon 2006

Gas chromatography continued to play a strong role on the exhibition floor and in conference papers and posters this year. The products shown represented steady growth and incremental improvement to existing GC instruments accessories, and software. There were significant new instrument system introductions of miniaturized GCs and detectors, standard benchtop lab systems, high-performance GC–mass spectrometry (MS) and GC–MS-MS instruments, and a couple of application-specific analyzers. A number of companies exhibited sample preparation accessories for specific analytical challenges in the pharmaceutical, environmental, and food processing industries, with classical headspace and thermal desorption devices leading the pack. The software arena was characterized by the usual updates to data-handling and LIMS packages, an expanded mass-spectral library, software to manage sample preparation, and some application-specific offerings.

New Instrument System Introductions

Two of the new instrument system introductions this year, shown in Table I, represent ongoing trends in gas chromatography. Domestic instrument companies have manufactured GC instruments and components in China for a number of years; the new GC7900 from Techcomp Ltd is a fully featured laboratory benchtop system that's manufactured in China by a foreign company and marketed in the United States. Clearly targeted at the QA/QC market, yet having high-performance specifications, this instrument is the latest example of the transfer of GC technology into a routine analytical tool. The other completely new instrument system of note is the Csi 300-Series Fast GC from Advanced Chromatography Systems with automated insertion and removal of a resistance-heated column module. This small instrument requires no tools to make and break the low dead-volume inlet and detector connections that are required with high-speed GC. Also in the fast GC world, the Varian CP4900 was enhanced with a new micro-sized differential ion mobility detector (μ-DMD) that runs in parallel with the existing micro thermal conductivity detector.

Table I: GC instrument systems

Other companies showed new instruments that are improved or updated versions of existing GCs or that combine components in new ways to obtain higher performance. The QP-2010 Plus from Shimadzu is an upgraded version of the QP-2010S, shown at last year's conference, with extended mass and source temperature ranges, larger available turbomolecular pump, and simultaneous scan–SIM modes. Thermo Electron showed two new GC–MS systems. The Focus PolarisQ combines the company's Focus GC with the PolarisQ Ion Trap mass spectrometer to provide a highly capable fully featured system in a small footprint, while the DFS GC–MS system provides the very high performance mass spectral detection capabilities of a high-resolution magnetic sector instrument. In the application-specific area, Arnel showed a Detailed Hydrocarbon Analyzer (DHA) for gasoline-range samples, and DETector Engineering & Technology exhibited a portable GC analyzer for oxygenates.

Sampling and Injection

The movement towards more highly automated sample preparation systems continues to influence GC sampling and injection, as illustrated by the products listed in Table II. Robotic systems were abundant on the exhibit floor, such as the automated solid-phase extraction (SPE) option for the Gerstel MPS Multi-Purpose Sampler, and the DryVap concentrator system from Horizon Technology. These devices automate the sometimes tedious tasks of repetitive sample preparation prior to injection. The ITEX option for the CTC Analytics CombiPAL autosampler adds headspace sample concentration capability to the versatile sample preparation system, while the TurboMatrix ATD 650 thermal desorber from PerkinElmer includes a new sample trapping and concentration capability with optional re-injection of analytes from thermal desorption tubes.

Table II: Autosamplers, injectors, and accessories

Two headspace sampling systems appeared this year that emphasize the prominence of this sampling technique for GC. The Markelov HS9000 from EST Analytical is a versatile automated headspace sampler capable of static or dynamic sampling into a concentration trap for subsequent desorption and injection; the unit uses a unique sample stirring method that rolls the sample vials at an angle as they are heated to equilibrium. The HT3 Static and Dynamic headspace system from Teledyne-Tekmar also features an adsorbent trap, and permits switching between static and dynamic modes inside a single sampling schedule. Meanwhile, CDS Analytical/Dynatherm introduced the new model 5250 pyrolysis autosampler that greatly speeds sample throughput by automatically loading, pyrolyzing, and ejecting up to 36 samples in a single sequence. In the micro-GC world, Airsense Analytics showed the μ-TD3 micro-trap for thermal desorption that functions as a high sensitivity front-end for Agilent micro gas chromatographs. For air samples, the Teledyne-Tekmar AUTOCan-12 is a freestanding 12-sample concentrator that accepts Tedlar bags and standard air canisters.

Completing this category are a new series of liners from SGE that feature a new fluorinated chemical deactivation process that does not require preconditioning, and the Restek EZ Twist Top split–splitless injection port that facilitates rapid inlet liner exchange for Agilent GC systems.

Table III: Detectors and accessories

Detectors and General Accessories

Agilent had an interesting fluidic switching device that has been applied to a dual-detector GC–flame photometric detection–mass-selective detection system for hazardous compound screening. The variable switch, which is machined from metal and then deactivated with an inert coating, controls the flow of column effluent to either detector. The system is targeted for food safety, chemical hazards, homeland security, and forensics. Chromsys LLC showed an add-on dual quadrupole mass spectrometer for the Agilent 5973/5975 series of quadrupole mass-selective detectors. The result is a versatile triple-quad detection system that uses an ion-rail collision cell and another quadrupole section to enable multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) for very high sensitivities and selectivities especially against a high-level background matrix.

The general accessory items all fell into the realm of gas delivery and purification, a topic that deserves more attention than many gas chromatographers give it. A new leak detector from Restek has a number of improved features including its sensitivity, display, and probe design. The NitroVap nitrogen generators from Parker Hannifin Corp. are intended for sample concentrators and replace the nitrogen tanks or dewars commonly used in this application. Rexarc International announced a new line of gas handling equipment including manifolds, valves, and regulators, suitable for high-sensitivity GC applications. The Super Clean Click-On in-line gas filters from Scientific Glass Technology appeared in a number of companies' booths. These are a version of the company's existing filter line that do not require a dedicated base but rather use specialized in-line fittings to achieve the same leak-tight and purged filter installation and replacement. And domnick hunter showed the Hydrogen MD generator, an updated version of their hydrogen generator that features a miniaturized, fully regenerative pressure-swing adsorption dryer that both increases the purity of hydrogen produced and reduces the maintenance requirements of the generator.

Table IV: General accessories

Software

Software continues to play a critical role in connecting instruments, data, and those who produce and consume the results. Leading the software category is the latest release of Applied Biosystems laboratory information management system SQL* LIMS® v5. This is a web-based, fully featured system that manages laboratory data and workflow processes for pharmaceutical and other R&D and manufacturing QA/QC operations. John Wiley & Sons has released the latest update to their library of mass spectral data, the 8th edition, which increases in size to nearly 400,000 spectra with over 183,000 chemical structures. The GC Expresso from Brechbuler AG is a quality-control system that is easily deployed in a process environment once the methodology has been developed in the lab. From Gerstel, Maestro Sample Prep software controls the company's sample preparation equipment, including the MultiPurpose Sampler, and is fully integrated with Agilent's ChemStation software. PerkinElmer unveiled the TurboMass 5.2 Environmental Reporting Software that includes both reporting templates as well as methods, compound lists, and required tuning capabilities. From Arnel, the improved and updated Simulated Distillation calculation and reporting software package supports common ASTM methodology.

Summary

Pittcon 2006 was another conference in the long line of annual meetings that extends back 57 years. Although attendance has fallen back to pre-1990 levels, the number of papers has steadily increased over the years, as have the quality and capability of GC instruments, accessories, and software — imagine what this year's micro GC systems, robotic samplers, high-performance detectors, and web-integrated software would have looked like to the attendees of even five years ago, and you can gain some perspective into the real advances that have been made in all areas. I look forward to Pittcon 2007 to see what the latest innovations will be.

Table V: Software Accessories

Acknowledgment

I would like to thank the manufacturers and distributors that kindly furnished the requested information before, during, and after Pittcon 2006, allowing a timely report on new product introductions. For those manufacturers who would like to be considered for inclusion into Pittcon 2007 coverage, please send the name of the primary company contact, the mailing address, fax number, and e-mail address to Patrick Kempf, Managing Editor, LCGC North America, c/o Advanstar Communications, 485 Rte. 1 South, Bldg. F, Iselin, New Jersey 08830, Attn.: Pittcon 2007 "New GC Products."

"GC Connections" editor John V. Hinshaw is senior staff engineer at Serveron Corp., Hillsboro, Oregon, and a member of LCGC's editorial advisory board. Direct correspondence about this column to "GC Connections," LCGC, Woodbridge Corporate Plaza, 485 Route 1 South, Building F, First Floor, Iselin, NJ 08830, e-mail lcgcedit@lcgcmag.com

References

(1) R. Majors, LCGC 24(3), 248–266 (2006).

(2) R. Majors, LCGC 24(4), 356–373 (2006).

Companies Listed in This Column

Advanced Chromatography, Charleston, South Carolina

Agilent Technologies, Wilmington, Delaware

Airsense Analytics, Schwerin, Germany

Applied Biosystems, Foster City, California

Arnel, Parlin, New Jersey

Brechbuler AG, Houston, Texas

CDS Analytical / Dynatherm, Oxford, Pennsylvania

Chromsys LLC, Alexandria, Virginia

CTC Analytics, Zwingen, Switzerland

DETector Engineering & Technology, Walnut Creek, California

Domnick Hunter, Gateshead, UK

EST Analytical, Cinncinnati, Ohio

Gerstel, Baltimore, Maryland

Horizon Technology, Atkinson, New Hampshire

John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York

Parker Hannifin Corp., Tweksbury, Massachusetts

PerkinElmer, Shelton, Connecticut

Restek Corp., Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Rexarc International, West Alexandria, Ohio

Scientific Glass Technology, Middleburg, The Netherlands

SGE International Pty Ltd, Austin, Texas

Shimadzu Scientific , Columbia, Maryland

Techcomp Ltd, Hong Kong

Teldyne - Tekmar, Cincinnati, Ohio

Thermo Electron, Waltham, Massachusetts

Varian, Walnut Creek, California