Conceptually, pyrolysis is a simple process. Apply sufficient heat to a complex chemical species until organic bonds begin to break forming smaller, stable molecules commonly referred to as pyrolyzates. The gas chromatographic separation of the pyrolyzates is called a pyrogram.
The pyrolyzates formed and their relative intensities provide insight into the nature of the original material. While data quality is a function of the entire GC system, it is the design of the pyrolyzer that has the greatest impact on the data quality. Three factors are of paramount importance:
1. The sample must be “heated” instantaneously. Frontier utilizes a vertical micro-furnace. The sample goes from ambient to the furnace temperature in less than 20msec. The near instantaneous increase in temperature eliminates changes in the sample as it is heated and provides a high level of reproducibility.
2. The sample path must be inert and at a uniform temperature. The Frontier multi-functional pyrolyzer has no transfer line. The furnace is just a few centimeters away from the split/splitless injection port. The “interface” is the needle going into the splitter. This eliminates the contamination and thermal gradients associated with conventional transfer lines.
3. The sample must be at ambient temperature. Frontier physically removes the sample from the furnace and holds it at ambient temperature (in an inert atmosphere) whenever multiple analyses (double-shot, heart-cutting, etc.) of a single sample are being done. This maintains sample integrity and contributes to both the accuracy and precision of the data.