Why is Leak checking necessary before starting Gas Chromatography analysis?


Gas Leak Detector
Photo Courtesy : www.pharmaceutical-int.com/

A Gas Chromatographic system which is ready for analysis should be free of line leakages to give precise results every time  under identical conditions. Gas leaks   can be frustrating due to the following reasons:

  • Leaks lead to loss of expensive high-quality gases
  • Flow changes due to leaks result in shifting of peak positions due to changes in retention times
  • Detector noise and unstable baselines
  • Reduction in useful life of the column traps
  • Irreversible damage to column packing if exposed to oxygen entering through leaks at high operation temperatures
  • Need for greater detector maintenance

 Let us now consider the potential leak points in the Gas chromatographic system. One should check for leaks at the gas source (gas cylinders), regulators, fittings, adapters and connectors down the line and even all fittings and connectors within the Gas Chromatography column over. Remember to turn off the oven fan when checking Gas Chromatography column leaks. Unlike HPLC where leaks become visible the leaks of gas chromatography system can go unnoticed if leak detection devices are not used.

Conventionally soap or detergent solutions have been used to detect leaks but due to venturi effect such solutions can be sucked in and lead to column contamination. The other convenient alternative is to use portable hand-held detectors generally based on the principle of thermal conductivity. These are relatively in expensive devices which have sensors capable of access to every nook and corner of the Gas Chromatograph and do not lead to system contamination. In high sensitivity detectors such as mass spectrometer argon gas is sprayed around fittings and connections and monitoring is conducted for mass 40. Otherwise one can even monitor for nitrogen (mass 28) or oxygen (mass 32) by the mass sensitive detector.

Reliable inexpensive leak detectors are available from a number of manufacturers some of which are listed here:

Leak detection should be adopted as a regular laboratory practice every time you change a cylinder or the Gas Chromatography column and before conditioning the column prior to start of analysis.

Please leave your comments and share your experiences.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.


  1. what is the use of gas chromatography ?

    • Hi Al-amin,
      Gas Chromatography is a separation technique used for separation and quantification of volatile components of liquid and gaseous mixture.It has main applications in studies on residual solvents in pharmaceuticals,flavours and fragrances,petroleum products,etc. I would recommend you to register and go through our free course on gas chromatography available on this site.In case you have any further questions we shall be pleased to answer the same.

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