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Anal Chem. 1997 Sep 1;69(17):3465-70. doi: 10.1021/ac9701142.

Simultaneous flame ionization and absorbance detection of volatile and nonvolatile compounds by reversed-phase liquid chromatography with a water mobile phase.

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Center for Process Analytical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Box 351700, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195.


A flame ionization detector (FID) is used to detect volatile organic compounds that have been separated by water-only reversed-phase liquid chromatography (WRP-LC). The mobile phase is 100% water at room temperature, without use of organic solvent modifiers. An interface between the LC and detector is presented, whereby a helium stream samples the vapor of volatile components from individual drops of the LC eluent, and the vapor-enriched gas stream is sent to the FID. The design of the drop headspace cell is simple because the water-only nature of the LC separation obviates the need to do any organic solvent removal prior to gas phase detection. Despite the absence of organic modifier, hydrophobic compounds can be separated in a reasonable time due to the low phase volume ratio of the WRP-LC columns. The drop headspace interface easily handles LC flows of 1 mL/min, and, in fact, compound detection limits are improved at faster liquid flow rates. The transfer efficiency of the headspace interface was estimated at 10% for toluene in water at 1 mL/min but varies depending on the volatility of each analyte. The detection system is linear over more than 5 orders of 1-butanol concentration in water and is able to detect sub-ppb amounts of o-xylene and other aromatic compounds in water. In order to analyze volatile and nonvolatile analytes simultaneously, the FID is coupled in series to a WRP-LC system with UV absorbance detection. WRP-LC improves UV absorbance detection limits because the absence of organic modifier allows the detector to be operated in the short-wavelength UV region, where analytes generally have significantly larger molar absorptivities. The selectivity the headspace interface provides for flame ionization detection of volatiles is demonstrated with a separation of 1-butanol, 1,1,2-trichloroethane (TCE), and chlorobenzene in a mixture of benzoic acid in water. Despite coelution of butanol and TCE with the benzoate anion, the nonvolatile benzoate anion does not appear in the FID signal, allowing the analytes of interest to be readily detected. The complementary selectivity of UV-visible absorbance detection and this implementation of flame ionization detection allows for the analysis of volatile and nonvolatile components of complex samples using WRP-LC without the requirement that all the components of interest be fully resolved, thus simplifying the sample preparation and chromatographic requirements. This instrument should be applicable to routine automated water monitoring, in which repetitive injection of water samples onto a gas chromatograph is not recommended.


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