Chromatography is the separation of a mixture of compounds (solutes) into separate components. By separating the sample into individual components, it is easier to identify (qualitate) and measure the amount (quantitate) of the various sample components.
There are numerous chromatographic techniques and corresponding instruments. Gas chromatography (GC) is one of these techniques.
It is estimated that 10-20% of the known compounds can be analyzed by GC. To be suitable for GC analysis, a compound must have sufficient volatility and thermal stability. If all or some of a compound’s molecules are in the gas or vapor phase at 400-450°C or below, and they do not decompose at these temperatures, the compound can probably be analyzed by GC.
In referigerants a GC analysis, a known volume of gaseous or liquid analyte is injected into the “entrance” (head) of the column, usually using a microsyringe (or, solid phase microextraction fibers, or a gas source switching system). As the carrier gas sweeps the analyte molecules through the column, this motion is inhibited by the adsorption of the analyte molecules either onto the column walls or onto packing materials in the column. The rate at which the molecules progress along the column depends on the strength of adsorption, which in turn depends on the type of molecule and on the stationary phase materials. Since each type of molecule has a different rate of progression, the various components of the analyte mixture are separated as they progress along the column and reach the end of the column at different times (retention time). A detector is used to monitor the outlet stream from the column; thus, the time at which each component reaches the outlet and the amount of that component can be determined. Generally, substances are identified (qualitatively) by the order in which they emerge(elute) from the column and by the retention time of the analyte in the column.