Back to Basics: What is Pyrolysis?

Let’s discuss – what is pyrolysis? And why are a growing number of labs adopting this technique into their workflow?

Pyrolysis is a common method of GC/MS sample preparation. The technique has been around for a long time, but the technological improvements to the design of pyrolyzers over the past several years has been impressive.

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: 1) eliminates changes in the sample as it is heated and 2) 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.


This just scratches the surface. Click here to learn more about Pyrolysis, and how Pyrolyzers work.


There is a ton more to learn about the pyrolysis technique, the different types of pyrolyzers available, and what sets the Frontier multi-functional pyrolyzer above the rest. Here are the recommended resources we suggest you check-out:

What is Pyrolysis and How Do Pyrolyzers Work? – If you are new to the technique or to the Frontier pyrolyzer instrument, there’s a ton of great resources to help you along your educational path.

Understanding Different Types of Pyrolyzers – Learn about the three classifications of commercial pyrolyzers in this informative article.

How Does Frontier Pyrolysis-GC/MS Work? – Learn how the powerful micro-furnace solution can accelerate your analysis in this article.

Common Misconceptions About Pyrolysis – On your path to building expertise on the Frontier Pyrolyzer or pyrolysis, be sure to avoid these four common misconceptions.

Take Your Characterization Further with Pyrolysis-GC/MS – Pyrolysis GC/MS allows for a wider range of compounds to be analyzed, with improved sensitivity, accuracy, and speed. Read more!


Ready to discuss adding Pyrolysis to your lab?

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.


Explore Frontier Pyrolyzer accessories and how they can enhance the capabilities of the Multi-Functional Pyrolysis Solution.
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