A Novel EI Source Optimized for Use with Hydrogen Carrier Gas in GC/MS and GC/MS/MS

Operational Issues Impacting the Environmental Laboratory Industry
Oral Presentation

Presented by A. Smith Henry
Prepared by A. Andrianova, B. Quimby, A. McQuay
Agilent Technologies, 2850 Centerville Rd., Wilmington, DE, 19808, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 302-636-3969


Recent concerns with the price and availability of helium have led laboratories to look for alternative carrier gases for their GC/MS and GC/MS/MS systems. For GC/MS, hydrogen is the best alternative to helium. Among the problems encountered when converting to hydrogen carrier gas in GC/MS is that hydrogen is not an inert gas and may cause chemical reactions in the mass spectrometer electron ionization (EI) source. This can lead to disturbed ion ratios in the mass spectrum, spectral infidelity, and peak tailing. Therefore, a novel EI source for GC/MS and GC/MS/MS was developed and optimized for use with hydrogen carrier gas.

To evaluate the novel EI source performance, several classes of compounds including SVOCs, PAHs, PCBs, phthalates, and pesticides were analyzed with GC/MS and GC/MS/MS using hydrogen as the carrier gas. The results demonstrated:
• Good spectral fidelity for compounds susceptible to hydrogenation in the source resulting in higher library match scores observed against the NIST spectral library when compared to the conventional EI source. This effect was especially pronounced for nitrobenzene and other nitro-compounds
• Excellent chromatographic peak shape, especially for late-eluting PAHs with a fast analysis method that is known to amplify any chromatographic peak tailing
• Good performance for the analysis of over 200 pesticides with both GC/MS and GC/MS/MS
• Dramatically improved calibration performance for SVOCs
• Demonstrated excellent sensitivity at the sub-ppb level for many analytes including PAHs and PCBs, exceeding that typically seen with hydrogen carrier gas with both GC/MS and GC/MS/MS
• Stable system performance for over 5,000 injections of a heavy soil extract.

The novel EI source addresses one of the operational issues impacting the environmental laboratory industry with using hydrogen as the carrier gas.