VOLKER STEGER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY VOLKER STEGER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Researcher injecting a liquid sample into a gas chromatograph (GC). This machine enables complex mixtures of volatile compounds to be separated into individual components. The sample is injected from a syringe into the machine, where it is heated and evaporated into gases. An inert carrier gas, such as helium, forces the components into a heated column where separation takes place. Compounds with high boiling points or strong polarity will move more slowly through the column. As the compounds pass out of the column, they are ionised and analysed by a mass spectrometer (lower left). The results are printed as a mass spectrum graph.
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