The Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) instrument separates chemical mixtures (the GC component) and identifies the components at a molecular level (the MS component). It is one of the most accurate tools for analyzing environmental samples. The GC works on the principle that a mixture will separate into individual substances when heated. The heated gases are carried through a column with an inert gas (helium). As the separated substances emerge from the column opening, they flow into the MS. Mass spectrometry identifies compounds by the mass of the analyte molecule. A “library” of known mass spectra, covering several thousand compounds, is stored on a computer. Mass spectrometry is considered the only definitive analytical detector.
Chromatographs - Gas Chromatograph (GC) - Gas Chromatograph coupled to Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS)