Essential oil analysis has basically had one technical goal: to achieve the best possible separation performance by using the most effective, available technology of the day. The result achieved from this may then be used to answer the research or industrial analysis questions which necessitated the analysis. This may be for comparative purposes, where one oil is contrasted with other(s) for quality control or investigation of adulteration, to discover new components, or to characterise the chemical classes of compounds present. Clearly, today the analyst turns to chromatography as the provider of separation and then may supplement that with mass spectrometry to aid identification. The power of GC-MS means that advances in both the separation technique, and improvements in mass spectrometry detection - along with improved data handling tools - will immediately be relevant to the essential oil area. This present review outlines the developmental nature of instrumental approaches to essential oil analysis using gas chromatography. Mass spectrometry will be included to the extent that it represents the hyphenation of choice for most analysts when analysing essential oils. Thus single-column and multidimensional analysis will be covered, as will sample handling or introduction techniques prior to the analysis step, where these techniques provide some measure of separation. The recent demonstration of comprehensive gas chromatography will be discussed as the potentially most powerful separation method for essential oils. This brief review is not intended to be a comprehensive dissertation on the field of essential oil analysis since that would require sufficient space to occupy a book in its own right. Rather, it will outline selected considerations and developments, to help explain where new technology has been applied to advantage in this field.
- Essential oils
- Gas chromatography, comprehensive two-dimensional
- Multidimensional separation
- Sample introduction