Comparison of thermal sweeper and cryogenic modulator technology for comprehensive gas chromatography

Philip J. Marriott, Russell M. Kinghorn, Ruby Ong, Paul Morrison, Peter Haglund, Mikael Harju

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The two current technologies for achieving comprehensive gas chromatography (GC × GC) - the thermal sweeper and the cryogenic modulator - are compared in an interlaboratory study using a multi-component semi-volatile aromatic compound sample. The same column set (phases, film thickness, dimensions of columns) and conditions of oven temperature program were used. Carrier gas flow settings however were different for the data reported here. The thermal sweeper has a longer overall length due to the extra ca. 30 cm length of narrow bore tubing used for the modulator/accumulator section. Data reveal that the two methods behave in an analogous manner in respect of delivering GC × GC results, with key peak parameters of peak widths and symmetry measures showing good correlation. Retention time dissimilarity on the first dimension columns in the two systems arises from different flow rates used, however the second column retention is similar, and this is due to the resulting different elution temperatures that peaks elute on the first dimension in each system. Overall, the two approaches to GC × GC appear to produce equivalent results within the scope of the application studied. Each system does have its experimental limitations; the thermal sweeper has what may be called a 'thick film effect', where at high temperature it can be difficult to sufficiently trap the migrating bands in the accumulator column, and the pulsing of solutes in the cryogenic system may suffer from a 'thick wall effect' if a column with too thick a wall dimension is used at low oven temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-258
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Separation Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Comprehensive gas chromatography
  • Cryogenic modulation
  • Peak asymmetries
  • Peak widths
  • Semi-volatile aromatics
  • Thermal sweeper

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