The effect of column characteristics on the minimum analyte concentration and the minimum detectable amount in capillary gas chromatography

T.H.M. Noij, J.M.P.M. Curvers, C.A.M.G. Cramers

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The need for faster and more efficient separations of complex mixtures of organic compounds by gas chromatography has led to the development of small inner diameter open tubular columns. Owing to their decreased plate height, extremely narrow peaks are obtained. When differently sized columns with equal plate numbers are compared, injection of a fixed amount of a solute will give the highest detector signals for the smallest bore columns. When P is defined as the ratio of the column inlet and outlet pressures, it can be seen from theory that under normalized chromatographic conditions the minimum detectable amount (Qº) for a mass flow sensitive detector increases proportionally to the square of the column diameter for P = 1. In the situation of greater interest in the practice of open tubular gas chromatography where P is large, a linear relationship is derived between Qº and the column diameter. It is a widespread misunderstanding, however, that narrow bore capillary columns should be used for this reason in trace analysis. If a fixed relative contribution of the injection band width to the overall peak variance is allowed, a decreased plate height drastically restricts the maximum sample volume to be injected. It is shown that the minimum analyte concentration in the injected sample (Cº) is inversely proportional to the column inner diameter when a mass flow sensitive detector is used. For actual concentrations less than Cº, sample preconcentration is required. The effect of peak resolution and selectivity of the stationary phase in relation to Cº and Qº will be discussed as well. The validity of the given theory is experimentally investigated. Minimum analyte concentrations and minimum detectable amounts are compared using columns with different inner diameter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)752-759
JournalHRC & CC, Journal of High Resolution Chromatography and Chromatography Communications
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1986


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