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Back to Basics: What is Pyrolysis?

Pyrolysis is a common method of GC/MS sample preparation. The instruments are referred to as pyrolyzers. Conceptually, pyrolysis is a simple process. Apply sufficient heat to a complex chemical species until organic bonds begin to break into smaller, stable molecules. These are commonly referred to as pyrolyzates. The gas chromatographic separation of the pyrolyzates is called a pyrogram. The pyrolyzates formed and their relative intensities provide insight into the nature of the original material.

While data quality is a function of the entire GC system, it is the design of the pyrolyzer that has the greatest impact on the data quality.

With pyrolysis, there are three factors of paramount importance:

  1. The sample must be “heated” instantaneously. Frontier pyrolyzers use a vertical micro-furnace. The sample goes from ambient to the furnace temperature in less than 20 milliseconds. The near instantaneous increase in temperature does two things. It eliminates changes in the sample as it is heated, and provides a high level of reproducibility.
  2. The sample path must be inert and at a uniform temperature. The Frontier multi-functional pyrolyzer has no transfer line. The furnace is just a few centimeters away from the split/splitless injection port. The “interface” is the needle going into the splitter. This eliminates the contamination and thermal gradients associated with conventional transfer lines.
  3. The sample must be at ambient temperature. Frontier physically removes the sample from the furnace and holds it at ambient temperature (in an inert atmosphere) whenever multiple analyses of a single sample are being done. (As with double-shot or heart-cutting). This maintains sample integrity and contributes to both the accuracy and precision of the data.

 

Learn more

Quantum Analytics is a distributor for Frontier Laboratories, a leading manufacturer of instruments for pyrolysis, thermal desorption and evolved gas analysis. The Frontier 3030 PY-3030S single-shot pyrolyzer, Frontier EGA/PY-3030D multi-shot pyrolyzer and Frontier Rx-3050TR Tandem micro-Reactor are available with value-added services like installation, training and flexible financing options.

 

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