Gas chromatography

Gas Chromatography (GC) is an analytical technique used to physically separate volatile components in a mixture. It is commonly used for the separation of volatile organic and gaseous compounds, and can be used to determine the chemical makeup of a mixture.

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What is gas chromatography and how does it work?

Gas chromatography (GC) takes place within a column which contains two distinct phases: one stationary, one mobile. The stationary phase is usually made from a material such as silica, and lines the inside of the column tubing. The mobile phase is an inert, unreactive gas which will carry the sample through the column without reacting with it.

The sample is initially injected into the column, where it is vaporized by heat. Then, the inert mobile phase will carry the vaporized sample through the length of the column. Different chemical components will have different affinities for the stationary phase. Depending on this, they will either get swept through the column quickly by the carrier gas, or slowly as they interact with the stationary phase. This means that components with high affinity for the stationary phase will have a long retention time, whereas more volatile components will be carried through at a greater rate.

This effect causes different components in the sample to become distanced from each other, effectively separating them. As the individual components reach the end of the column, they are detected and the data is recorded. This provides insight into the makeup of the sample, and produces information on the relative abundances of each component in a mixture.

What is gas chromatography used for?

Gas chromatography is the perfect solution for separating and calculating the yields of components in a volatile mixture. As such, it is commonly used in petroleum and pharmaceutical industries, as it is a consistently reliable physical technique for quality control. It can be used to monitor fatty acids and essential oils which are important to many industries. It is also an excellent technique for monitoring air quality and environmental pollution, as it can easily be used to work out the contents of an air sample.

GC is also prevalent in its use in gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). This combined technique operates by passing a sample through the gas chromatograph, before the separated components are ionized and analysed by a mass spectrometer. This technique provides more information on the molecular weights of the constituents in the sample, and therefore can add an extra dimension to identification of unknown compounds.

GC vs HPLC- which is better for what?

type: entry-hyperlink id: 6tg9ND6yNCZvPVfeZER2Py is an alternative technique to GC which uses similar, albeit slightly different, principles. Where GC uses an inert gas as a mobile phase, HPLC instead uses a variety of solvents. This means that the mixture which is to be separated will have more interaction with the mobile phase, thus it is more important to the separation process.

GC is mostly used for the separation of volatile compounds which are either a gas at room temperature, or can be readily vaporized. This makes it ideal for separation of air samples, pharmaceuticals and natural organics. HPLC is instead used for separation of components based on their polarity, meaning that it is more appropriate for work with inorganic ions, and larger molecules, such as polymers and proteins, which are difficult to vaporize.

Sample requirements and preparation

Samples to be analysed through GC must be volatile. This means that the ideal sample is a mixture of volatile organic components, which can easily be vaporized for analysis. If it is not inherently volatile, GC analysis may still be performed, provided that the sample can still be vaporized at an achievable temperature.

Need a gas chromatography analysis?

Measurlabs offers gas chromatography analysis services of high quality with fast results and affordable prices. If you have any questions about your sample or it’s suitability for the method, our experts are always happy to help. You can contact us through the form below or by emailing us at

Suitable sample matrices

  • Organic mixtures
  • Volatile components
  • Gaseous mixtures
  • Air samples
  • Natural oils
  • Fatty acids

Ideal uses

  • Separation of organic components in a mixture
  • Quality assurance
  • Testing of air quality
  • Environmental analysis

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Frequently asked questions

What is gas chromatography commonly used for?

Gas chromatography is used for separating volatile compounds in a mixture.  It is commonly used for the separation of volatile organic and gaseous compounds, and can be used to determine the chemical makeup of a mixture.

What kind of samples can be analysed with gas chromatography?

Volatile samples that can be vaporized can be analysed with the technique. For example organic mixtures, gaseous mixtures, volatile components, air samples and natural oils can be analysed with gas chromatography.

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

How do I send my samples?

Samples are usually delivered to our laboratory via courier. Contact us for further details before sending samples.

Gas Chromatography (GC) is an analytical technique used to physically separate volatile components in a mixture and determine the chemical composition of it. We offer high-quality gas chromatography analyses in accredited laboratories.