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Anal Chem. 2005 Apr 1;77(7):2078-84.

Stop-flow programmable selectivity with a dual-column ensemble of microfabricated etched silicon columns and air as carrier gas.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


A series-coupled ensemble of microfabricated GC columns made by dry reactive ion etching of silicon substrates is evaluated for use with pneumatic selectivity enhancement techniques for targeted pairs of volatile organic compounds. Each column is 3.0 m long with a 150 miceom wide by 240 microm deep cross section. Dynamic coating was used to prepare a nonpolar column with a dimethyl polysiloxane stationary phase and a moderately polar column with a trifluoropropylmethyl polysiloxane stationary phase. Each column generates 5000-6000 theoretical plates. The columns are operated in series with the nonpolar column connected to a split inlet, the polar column connected to a flame ionization detector, and a valve connected between the column junction point and the inlet to the first column. When the valve is closed, the effluent from the first column passes directly into the second column. When the valve is open, both ends of the first column are at the inlet pressure, and flow stops in this column while increased flow is obtained in the second column. For analyte pairs that are separated by the first column but coelute from the column ensemble, the valve is opened for a few seconds after the first component of the pair has passed into the second column but the second component is still in the first column. The result is enhanced separation of the pair in the ensemble chromatogram. Relatively thick cross-linked stationary-phase films are used to increase retention for volatile compounds. The combination of air carrier gas and stationary-phase film thickness in the range 1-2 microm requires the use of relatively low average carrier gas velocities (typically less than 10 cm/s) for adequate resolving power of the column ensemble. Selectivity enhancement under isothermal conditions for a 14-component mixture of volatile organic compounds is demonstrated where neither of the columns alone nor the column ensemble without selectivity enhancement could obtain a complete separation.

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