Extending the upper temperature range of gas chromatography with all-silicon microchip columns using a heater/clamp assembly


High temperature, Microchip column, Gas chromatography, Semi-volatile compounds, Thermal gradient


Miniaturization of gas chromatography (GC) instrumentation is of interest because it addresses current and future issues relating to compactness, portability and field application. While incremental advancements continue to be reported in GC with columns fabricated in microchips (referred to in this paper as “microchip columns”), the current performance is far from acceptable. This lower performance compared to conventional GC is due to factors such as pooling of the stationary phase in corners of non-cylindrical channels, adsorption of sensitive compounds on incompletely deactivated surfaces, shorter column lengths and less than optimum interfacing to injector and detector. In this work, a GC system utilizing microchip columns was developed that solves the latter challenge, i.e., microchip interfacing to injector and detector. A microchip compression clamp was constructed to heat the microchip (i.e., primary heater), and seal the injector and detector fused silica interface tubing to the inlet and outlet ports of the microchip channels with minimum extra-column dead volume. This clamp allowed occasional operation up to 375 °C and routine operation up to 300 °C. The compression clamp was constructed of a low expansion alloy, Kovar™, to minimize leaking due to thermal expansion mismatch at the interface during repeated thermal cycling, and it was tested over several months for more than one hundred injections without forming leaks. A 5.9 m long microcolumn with rectangular cross section of 158 μm × 80 μm, which approximately matches a 100 μm i.d. cylindrical fused silica column, was fabricated in a silicon wafer using deep reactive ion etching (DRIE) and high temperature fusion bonding; finally, the channel was coated statically with a 1% vinyl, 5% phenyl, 94% methylpolysiloxane stationary phase. High temperature separations of C10-C40 n-alkanes and a commercial diesel sample were demonstrated using the system under both temperature programmed GC (TPGC) and thermal gradient GC (TGGC) conditions. TGGC analysis of a complex essential oil sample was also demonstrated. Addition of a secondary heater and polyimide insulation proved to be helpful in achieving the desired elution temperature without having to raise the primary heater temperature above 300 °C for high boiling point compounds.

Original Publication Citation

Ghosh, A., Johnson, J. E., Nuss, J. G., Stark, B. A., Hawkins, A. R., Tolley, L. T., Iverson, B. D., Tolley, H. D., and Lee, M. L., 2017, "Extending the upper temperature range of microchip gas chromatography using a heater/clamp assembly," Journal of Chromatography A, Vol. 1517, pp. 134-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.chroma.2017.08.036

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Chromatography A




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor