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Anal Chem. 2008 Nov 15;80(22):8613-21. doi: 10.1021/ac801511d. Epub 2008 Oct 14.

Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography combustion isotope ratio mass spectrometry.

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Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Savage Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


We report the first coupling of comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC x GC) to online combustion isotope ratio mass spectrometry (C-IRMS). A GC x GC system, equipped with a longitudinally modulated cryogenic system (LMCS), was interfaced to an optimized low dead volume combustion interface to preserve <300 ms full width at half-maximum (fwhm) fast GC peaks generated on the second GC column (GC2). The IRMS detector amplifiers were modified by configuration of resistors and capacitors to enable fast response, and a home-built system acquired data at 25 Hz. Software was home-written to handle isotopic time shifts of less than one bin (40 ms) and to integrate peak slices to recover isotope ratios from cryogenically sliced peaks. The performance of the GC x GCC-IRMS system was evaluated by isotopic analysis of urinary steroid standards. Steroids were separated by a nonpolar GC1 column (30 m x 0.25 mm, 5% phenyl), modulated into multiple 4- or 8-s cryogenic slices by the LMCS, and then separated on a polar GC2 column (1 or 2 m x 0.1 mm, 50% phenyl). GC2 peak widths from a 1-m column averaged 276 ms fwhm. Steroid standard sliced peaks were successfully reconstructed to yield delta(13)C VPDB values with average precisions of SD(delta(13)C) = 0.30 per thousand and average accuracies within 0.34 per thousand, at 8 ng on column. Two steroids, coeluting in GC1, were baseline separated in GC2 and resulted in delta(13)C VPDB values with average precisions of SD(delta(13)C) = 0.86 per thousand and average accuracies within 0.26 per thousand, at 3 ng on column. Results from this prototype system demonstrate that the enhanced peak capacity and signal available in GC x GC is compatible with high-precision carbon isotope analysis.

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