The ability to rapidly detect and identify hazardous analytes in the field has become increasingly important. One of the most important analytical detection methods in the field is gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). In this work, a hand-portable GC-MS system is described that contains a miniature toroidal ion trap mass analyzer and a low thermal mass GC. The system is self-contained within the dimensions of 47 x 36 x 18 cm and weighs less than 13 kg. Because the instrument has a small footprint, it was used as the detector for an automated near-real-time permeation testing system. In permeation testing, materials that are used to make individual protective equipment such as gloves, masks, boots, and suits are exposed to hazardous analytes to determine how long the equipment can be worn safely. The system described herein could test five samples simultaneously. A multi-position valve rotated among the various sample streams and delivered time aliquots into the MS for quantitation. Current field air sampling techniques suffer from long desorption times, high pressure drops, artifact formation and water retention. These disadvantages can be avoided by concentrating the analytes in short open tubular traps containing thick films. There are several advantages to using polymer coated capillaries as traps, including fast desorption, inertness and low flow restriction. An air sampling trap was constructed utilizing open tubular traps for the concentration of semi-volatile organic compounds. The system consisted of multiple capillary traps bundled together, providing high sample flow rates. The analytes were desorbed from the multi-capillary bundle and refocused in a secondary trap. The simultaneous focusing and separation effect of a trap subjected to a negative temperature gradient was also explored. In this configuration, analytes were focused because the front of the peak was at a lower temperature than the rear of the peak and, hence, moved slower. In addition to the focusing effect, analytes with different volatilities focused at different temperatures within the gradient, allowing for separation.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, toroidal ion trap, permeation testing, air sampling, open tubular traps, multi-capillary trap, negative temperature gradient, toxic industrial chemicals, chemical warfare agents