Reader Feedback: Old Dogs Learning New Tricks

Why Are We Still Using the Same Sample Preparation Techniques That We Used 40 Years Ago?

By Marcus Trygstad

[This comment relates to our Web Exclusive for December 2013, "CG Stands for Greater Control," from our sister publication, Chemical Processing (www.chemicalprocessing.com/articles/2013/gc-stands-for-greater-control)].

Dr. Rohrback's review of the state of the art as it has developed in practical online gas chromatography (GC) serves to illustrate the possibility of "teaching old dogs new tricks."

GC was the first analytical technology with a multivariable output to become broadly installed in the petrochemical industry. Four decades later, in terms of numbers installed, it remains unchallenged as top dog.

But while techniques and technologies have improved since then, three developments signal what are arguably the first real changes to the process GC paradigm, excluding the advent of capillary columns: sampling technology (NeSSI); resistively heated capillary columns to replace the column oven (Falcon Analytical); and software that performs DHA and chemometric alignment of chromatograms (InfoMetrix Software).

Such software transforms GC from being a largely univariate enterprise to a multivariate one, permitting reliable exploitation of the rich content from chromatograms.

Seeing these developments, Jimmy Converse of Monsanto might join Rohrback and say that GC stands for "Get creative!" In 1983, he questioned, "Why are we still using the same sample preparation techniques that we used 40 years ago?"

He also anticipated that "We will find a way…to improve reliability and reduce cost!"

Twenty years later, NeSSI began validating Converse's optimism, while industry's embrace today of new paradigm process GC technology suggests that NeSSI technology is enabling progress by remaking the sampling enterprise.

Marcus Trygstad