Gas chromatography systems (GC) are chemical instruments that enable the separation of a gaseous mixture. GC have applications beyond the traditional analytical lab and are commonly used in other industries such as food quality monitoring and environmental monitoring. Conventional GC systems are fragile and bulky and have limited their application in other fields. The prospect of a smaller, portable GC system would greatly enhance the ability to monitor air samples for personal safety and homeland security applications. Development of miniaturized GC systems is being approached by reducing the size of the separation column, decreasing power consumption and enabling simpler sample analysis.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed novel and improved separation micro column assemblies. These techniques have allowed them to realize a gas chromatograph instrument capable of operating at low power with a high speed for gas separation. Using MEMS technology, the researchers have introduced the possibility of a complete GC system with much smaller size and increased portability than its ancestors. Features of their design relied on the use of: (1) chemical-vapor-deposited (CVD) -sealed microchannels to achieve very low mass for rapid thermal cycling and high separation in gas analysis, (2) multiple temperature zones in an integrated column to enhance separation capabilities, with precise control over the temperature profile of each zone, and (3) movable microstructures to control the thermal access resistance to temperature-controlled elements such as GC column sections, along with possible implementations using the dissolved-wafer process or surface micromachining.
Applications and Advantages
- Miniaturized, portable GC that can be easily-nl-deployed in the field for personal air sampling and-nl-homeland security.
- Smaller size to make GC system more portable.
- Rapid thermal heating and cooling of-nl-separation column to enable rapid analysis-nl-of gas mixtures.
- Lower power consumption.