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Business & Education Gas Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry

The Principle of the Thing

Here’s a seemingly straightforward question for you. If pressed, could you explain how GC and MS technologies operate on a fundamental level? Struggling? You’re not the only one. The analytical community is facing a crisis in that increasing numbers of analysts no longer understand the basic principles underpinning our work. The consequences will be dire: stifled progress and questions raised regarding data validity.

What should the community do to address this problem? In the 1940s and 1950s, GC and MS were only just beginning to emerge as commercially viable instruments and the language describing their operation was simplistic. A few years ago, I worked on a project to build a historical timeline for GC and MS measurement of polychlorinated biphenyls in the environment. What began as a dauting task soon became a passion, as I morphed from analytical chemist to history detective; I wanted to know not just how the technology evolved, but why.

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About the Author

Michelle Misselwitz

Environmental Chemist, Chemistry Matters, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, USA

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