• What is Ultra-fast Gas Chromatography (UFGC)?

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What is Ultra-fast Gas Chromatography (UFGC)?

Jul 27 2022

Gas chromatography has come a long way since Martin and Synge in the 1940s. Today there are a wide range of advancements that make the process cheaper, faster and more accurate, amongst other improvements. One such development is ultrafast gas chromatography (UFGC), which – as its name suggests – focuses on improving the speed of analysis. Read on as we take a closer look.

How does ultra-fast gas chromatography work?

The easiest way to understand UFGC is relative to the gas chromatography we’re used to. In conventional gas chromatography, columns are up to around 50 micrometres in diameter and 15-60 metres in length. With heating rates from 1-40°C per minute, analysis typically takes between 15 to 90 minutes in total.

In comparison, UFGC utilises much shorter columns with larger diameters. That allows for faster ramp rates as well as eliminating capacity problems from columns less than 50 micrometres in size.

Columns are heated directly in a column compartment, so they can achieve much higher temperatures to increase the ramp rate. But because the temperature inside the compartment is around 90°C, it can also achieve quicker cool-down times. That also gives it the added benefit of lower energy consumption.

Ramp rates of up to 200°C per minute are not uncommon for UFGC, with even higher rates possible. The end result is a cycle time that’s up to 20 times faster than traditional gas chromatography.

Applications of UFGC

The two main advantages of UFGC are shorter run times and larger sample capacity. As you can imagine, that makes it highly useful for an array of applications, including the petrochemical industry, environmental analysis and the identification of pesticides.

Researchers from Sao Paulo used UFGC with flame ionization detection to determine petroleum hydrocarbon fractions in soil, for example. They found the method to be fast, cost-effective and more environmentally friendly.

Essentially, it’s advantageous to any screening analyses that require rapid and repeated cycles are particularly suitable. The same is true for faster methods of liquid chromatography, as explored in ‘The Only Thing Faster Than Ultra-Fast Is Instantaneous’.

UFGC also lends itself to clean-up monitoring, with the ability to quickly determine the presence of residues on equipment, for example. On top of that, it can be used for reaction monitoring, whether it’s determining engine wear in motor racing or analysing pharmaceutical waste streams.

Over the coming years, UFGC methods will become more popular and commonplace – not least because of simultaneous improvements in computing, which allow for faster data processing. Quite simply, with advances like automation, computers will have no problem keeping up with UFGC.

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