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Techniques & Tools Gas Chromatography, Technology, Education, Mass Spectrometry

A GC in Your Laptop

The problem

How can we give inexperienced trainees or potential users the chance to “play” with gas chromatography optimization – when there is no access to a GC system?

Background

When chemistry students cover physical separation methods, they typically learn about filtration, gravimetry, distillation and chromatography. However, the chromatography they are exposed to is very generic – at best a few injections are done by the instructor and the result are explained. When it comes to optimization methods, there is very little flexibility, as students are not usually allowed to work with a real GC.

Traditionally, you need plenty of “hands-on” GC experience to truly understand the impact of parameters, such as  oven temperature, flow, phase chemistry and column dimensions, on separation and analysis time. Back in my university labs, there were usually only a few gas chromatographs and columns available, so students could not spend the hours it would take to run experiments with various parameters – there is no time to “play.” And this represents a major roadblock to learning.

The solution

The solution is simple: a web program called “ProEZGC.” By simulating separations, it allows the user to change any GC parameter online and see how separations are affected. The program is free for anyone to use and calculates retention times based on real measurements.

Now, being a “hardcore” chromatographer, the word “simulation” immediately puts me on my guard, but once I learned how the program could benefit users, I realized that it is a very cool tool. Actually, it is designed for anyone to use, but I think it has a special value for students.

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About the Author

Jaap de Zeeuw

Jaap de Zeeuw

Jaap de Zeeuw’s thesis was entitled “Fused Silica Capillary Column Technology” – the beginning of 34 years in GC capillary technology. Jaap has developed many PLOT and bonded-phase columns, and is also the originator of simple concepts for fast GC-MS using high vacuum inside capillary columns. “I’ve traveled widely and I am well known...” not only for his technical knowledge and teaching skills; Jaap has published more than 100 articles on GC column technology and applications.

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