How to Manage Vaporization in an Analytical System

Overview:

If the analyzer in your analytical system requires gas but your sample is liquid, the only option is to convert the liquid to gas. This process is called vaporization or flash vaporization. The objective is to convert a sample of all liquid to all vapor instantly - without changing the composition.

It is not easy to vaporize a sample, nor is it always possible, so make sure it's really necessary and possible before you try. You should always analyze a liquid in a liquid phase unless there are strong reasons for analyzing in a vapor phase.

If you proceed with vaporization, it's important to understand the difference between evaporation and vaporization. Evaporation occurs gradually with an increase in temperature. Vaporization occurs instantly with a drop in pressure. It's not possible to vaporize a sample by increasing temperature. Heat causes evaporation, and adding more heat simply makes evaporation happen faster.

In a mixed sample, evaporation will allow some compounds to evaporate before others, resulting in fractionation. Vaporization, done properly, ensures that all of the compounds vaporize at the same time, preserving the sample's composition.

However, it is possible for things to go wrong when vaporizing. Instead of flashing the whole sample into a vapor, you could unintentionally cause a combination of vaporization and evaporation. The result would be fractionation. Once a sample of mixed compounds fractionates, it is no longer suitable for analysis. With fractionation, a common scenario is for lighter molecules to evaporate first and travel on toward the analyzer, while the heavier molecules remain behind in the liquid phase. Even if at some later point in the process a fractionated sample appears to be all gas, the mixture will not be of the same molecular proportions as it was before fractionation. It will no longer accurately represent the product taken from the process line.

Let's take a closer look at the process of vaporization and how we can manipulate the variables -- temperature, pressure, and flow -- to ensure proper vaporization and an accurate analytical result.

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Author: Doug Nordstrom, Tony Waters, Swagelok  | File Type: PDF

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