How the Autosampler is Used in the Chromatography Lab

A good autosampler is an instrument which is used in a variety of different laboratory applications, especially gas-liquid chromatography, where it is used (as the name implies) to automatically bring in a sample into the inlets of the apparatus being employed in a given test. Although it is possible to manually insert examples with many instruments, this is no longer the most popular practice, since autosamplers offer a more effective and reproducible method.

Autosamplers might be classified by their capacity, such as autosamplers as opposed to auto-injectors; the latter instrument is capable of running more than one sample at the same time. Robotic instruments offer another classification of autosampler, with rotating/SCARA robots being among the most widely used.

In gas-liquid chromatography, the column inlet (or injector) provides for the introduction of samples in to a continuous flow of carrier fuel.
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Common inlet types are the split/splitless injectors, on-column inlets, PTV injectors, the gas source inlet (also called a gas switching valve), purge and trap systems and SPME (solid phase micro extraction) systems. In the split/splitless injector, the particular sample is introduced to a warmed chamber using a syringe.

With an on-column inlet, the sample is launched in its entirety without the use of heat. PTV injectors introduce the example through a heated liner at a controlled rate. In the gas source inlet method, the sample is placed into the gas stream from collection bottles, a method which allows samples to be introduced without interrupting the transporter gas flow.

Purge and trap autosampler systems involve bubbling a good inert gas through aqueous samples, purging insoluble volatile compounds in the matrix. These volatile compounds are then trapped in an absorbent line which is then heated – the particular volatiles are directed into the company stream. Solid phase micro removal (SPME)is a more economical alternative to purge and trap systems which provides greater ease of use and a lower cost.

The type of automated sampling system used depends largely on the specific application; in fuel chromatography alone, there are two different types of columns used – with the different types of autosampler being more appropriate for one or the other. There are packed columns (usually made of glass or stainless steel plus containing an inert, solid and highly granular material which is coated with a liquid or solid stationary phase).

The other type are capillary columns; these columns feature a very small internal diameter, with the inside of the column being coated with the phase. Other capillary columns are made with a semi-solid construction and parallel micropores; this style allows for great flexibility, so a long column can be wound right into a tight coil which takes up far less room.

While it is gas and liquid chromatography which often first spring to mind when discussing different types of autosampler, there are samplers used in many different applications through the life sciences to geological research, the pharmaceutical industry, water quality testing and nearly every other app in the materials and life sciences as well as quality control testing of types. These instruments allow laboratories to handle higher sample throughputs while increasing reproducibility and efficiency.

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