Identification of important trace components in complex samples like fragrances, natural products, polymers or food products can be challenging. Achieving the mass on column and resolution necessary to locate peaks and identify trace components using a single column chromatographic separation can be difficult, if not impossible.

A selectable 1D/2D GC-MS configuration based on Agilent® Technologies capillary flow technology (CFT) and low thermal mass (LTM) GC column modules with dissimilar column phases was used to perform two-dimensional GC analysis of different foodstuffs. Heartcutting was used to transfer analytes from the first to the second column. Mass spectrometry and olfactory detection were performed in parallel. Solid Phase Micro-Extraction was used as a solventless means to introduce sufficient mass of sample onto the precolumn of the multi-dimensional system. SPME offers the added benefit of enabling “tuning” of the selectivity of the extraction through the choice of coating on the fiber.

Separation and identification of selected flavor compounds from food products were used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system. The main advantages of this configuration were the simple selection of one or two dimensional operation in combination with the ability to use mass spectrometry and olfactory detection in both dimensions for the analysis of odor active compounds.