A light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, parody of the evolution of gas chromatography, instrumentation and software, through the eyes of Markes International and SepSolve Analytical.

Our product and applications teams are constantly working to help analytical scientists tackle complex challenges in VOC and SVOC analysis – from sample preparation through to data-analysis.

Here are some of our customers’ successes.

Wildfire investigations

Mount Royal University team uses GC×GC–TOF MS to gather data to increase conviction rates in wildfire arson cases

In Alberta, Canada, 3269 hectares of land were burned during 704 wildfires in 2020. Professor Gwen O’Sullivan and Nadin Boegelsack, environmental forensics researchers at Mount Royal University in Alberta, investigate the causes of wildfires by searching for ignitable liquid residues (ILRs) – remnants of accelerants – in wildfire debris samples to provide key evidence for convictions in arson cases.

As wildfire debris and ILRs both consist of hundreds of compounds, the researchers used the enhanced separation of GC×GC–TOF MS to successfully identify ILR compounds that would normally have co-eluted with others using GC–TOF MS.

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Analysing nicotine pollution in water

Enhancing the sensitivity of extraction for the detection of nicotine in complex samples

Nicotine has been widely detected in natural water, a major source of which is leachates from discarded cigarettes. Professor Elefteria Psillakis at the Technical University of Crete, Greece, and her team analyse nicotine degradation in leachates using high-capacity sorptive extraction.

Detecting low levels of nicotine in small samples was a challenge for Psillakis, which she overcame using HiSorb™ probes immersed in the leachates – this method enhanced the sensitivity of high-capacity sorptive extraction to enable her to detect 1 ppm of nicotine among 4000 compounds.

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Food analysis

Tackling fraud in the olive oil industry

How do you tell a genuine olive oil from a counterfeit product? Professor Giorgia Purcaro at the University of Liège is addressing this question by headspace profiling, which offers better reproducibility than conventional assessments using trained sensory panels.

With sensitivity crucial to success of this approach, Professor Purcaro has turned to headspace–SPME on Markes International’s Centri platform to identify marker compounds that distinguish genuine oils from fraudulent equivalents – with very encouraging results.

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Environmental pollution

Increasing the understanding of SVOCs in exhaust particulates

The health and environmental impact of particles released from vehicle exhaust have been reckoned to result in an annual cost to the EU of over 600 billion euros, making it a major research priority.

Working with SepSolve Analytical, Dr Salim Alam at the University of Birmingham is using GC×GC with TOF MS to analyse harmful semi-volatiles in airborne particulates. The data generated from this work is fed into predictive models of pollution, helping to tackle this major threat to health.

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