This blog post will explore a typical day in a gas chromatography (GC) lab and all that could go wrong.
We know that these days, when your coworkers go on vacation, suddenly somebody else must take over their duties. Or maybe you have a calibration curve that all of a sudden looks completely weird. Not to mention derivatization for GC, which nobody likes to do! There are so many things that could go wrong.
And when things happen, we can always turn to our automated solutions.
Let's approach these dilemmas with a sense of humor, shall we?
Monday morning. Need I say more?
You arrive at your lab on a Monday morning and you already know about your endless list of things you need to do. It doesn`t matter whether you work in a food or environmental lab — the issues are the same in every GC lab.
While you still have not finished your first coffee and — oh man, we all know how badly we need that on a Monday morning — the first samples arrive.
Let's get the calibration curve on first, to look at the instrument performance. Well, the colleague who normally takes care of that is on vacation. But it can't be that hard to do. Flasks, syringes, standards, solvents, vials — they are all there. There must be something wrong with the pipettes; I accidentally released the pipette tip into the vial. Nobody saw it. Get it out and go on. An hour later, it's done and on the instrument. Ok, that already took longer than expected, and samples need to be prepared. Fortunately, there are only samples for liquid-liquid-extraction (LLE) today; no complicated solid-phase extraction required.
Flasks out, (hopefully the dishwasher did a good job cleaning them), solvents are there, let's weigh in the samples, add solvents and get the extraction started. Wait a minute. Where are the glass stoppers? Ok, these should fit. Should was not a good idea … now there is spill all over the bench. Were those harmful samples? Is there contamination in the lab? Is there enough sample left to do it again? Let's try it again with other glass stoppers. Great! This time it works. Did I shake it long enough? I hope so.
While waiting for two phases to separate, let`s take a look at the calibration curve. Oh no, that is totally not linear. What went wrong with the dilution? No time to rerun it. Take an old calibration curve instead?
It is already 11 a.m. and there was no time for a second coffee. Dash back to my office for one now.
After answering 15 emails, it’s back to the lab. Let`s pipette those samples quickly and get them evaporated. I haven`t done this in a long time. Hopefully, I get the right amount, and only the organic solvent phase, into the vial. We work with internal standards, so it should be ok. Quick — get all samples on the evaporator before my lunch break!
Monday after lunch
Nice that one colleague brought some cake, however, now I am running really late. Derivatization can`t be that difficult! Just add some derivatization reagent, add a cap to the vial and put it on the autosampler. Did I miss something? Normally it takes my colleague much longer to do this. Why? Was there an additional 30 minutes at a certain temperature for reaction? I can’t find the SOP. Well, just put it on the GC. There are still 10 emails I must deal with, and a new customer who would like to send samples to us is still awaiting a call. Let's get that done first.
Back to the lab. The chromatography looks totally weird. What happened here in my absence? Maybe there was an additional step for the derivatization in the SOP I couldn't find on the short run? The peaks are all over the place. All the work must be redone. No results will be reported out today. That doesn't leave a good impression with our customers. Better cancel that dinner with a friend. And where ARE my headache pills; this is getting serious now!
Found the SOP and all the recommendations, finally. It is already 8 p.m., and I hope that this time the results look better. At least the calibration curve does! That is a good start. Let`s keep our fingers crossed that the rest turn out well.
Does that all sound familiar?
If it does, you know the amount of stress you can experience, and if you’ve ever had the wish to find a solution for this and free up some time, then read on.
A solution for your stress
The Thermo Scientific™ TriPlus™ RSH SMART Autosampler can allow you a virtually headache-free life. It offers you a wide set of completely developed methods for all kinds of sample preparation for a GC lab, including dilutions, derivatizations, LLE, µSPE and on and on. Those proven protocols come with a plug-and-play method, that is used in labs all over the world.
What is so special about the SMART technology? Here are a few points: The instrument is so smart, that it will remind you when to change your syringe. Never thought about the septa in your injector? Not a good idea. It needs to be changed every so often; trust me on that one!
We all know that a glass surface can age over time and is no longer inert. This is expressed in loss of analyte. So when was the last time you changed the syringe on your system?
When talking about automation, speed is the key to success. The new SMART autosampler shows improved speed, which allows you to reduce time from injection to injection. And yes, while your GC is working, the next sample is already prepared. You just press the start key and you’ve gained time for all the other processes in your lab. It’s reliable, fast and headache-free!
Over the next few months, there will be more interesting news about the RSH SMART technology. To get up to speed in your lab, please follow me on LinkedIn and learn about new exciting opportunities to improve the quality of your results in a GC lab using SMART technology.