Method of analysis
Chemists can use many different methods to analyse substances. Some methods rely on chemical analysis, while others rely on machines.
Paper chromatography is used to analyse coloured substances, such as the coloured pigments in plants and artificial colours used as food additives.
Paper chromatography works because some of the coloured substances are better at dissolving in the liquid than they are at bonding with the paper, so they travel further up the paper.
Two substances are likely to be the same if they have the same colour and they travel the same distance up the paper.
Instrumental methods of analysis
Instrumental methods of analysis rely on machines. There are several different types of instrumental analysis. Some are suitable for detecting and identifying elements, while others are better suited to compounds. In general, instrumental methods of analysis are:
- Accurate (they reliably identify elements and compounds)
- Sensitive (they can detect very small amounts of a substance in a small amount of sample)
Gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS) are two instrumental methods of analysis. They can be linked together as GC-MS to allow substances in a sample to be separated, then identified. You need to have a basic understanding of how gas chromatography works.
Gas chromatography allows a mixture of compounds to be separated. The GC machine consists of a long glass tube packed with a powdered solid material, which is fitted into an oven. The tube is called the column, even though it is usually wound into a coil so that it fits into the oven.
1.The sample is dissolved in a solvent, then injected into one end of the column.
2.An unreactive gas - usually nitrogen - carries the sample through the column.
3.Different substances in the sample travel through the column at different speeds and so become separated from each other.
4.The separated substances leave the column one after the other. As they leave, they are detected by a detector.
The time taken for a substance to travel through the column is called its retention time. A detector produces a graph where each substance is represented by a peak:
The number of peaks shows the number of compounds present in the sample
The position of each peak shows the retention time for each compound
A mass spectrometer is able to identify substances very quickly and accurately. It can detect very small amounts. If a GC machine is linked to a mass spectrometer, this combined GC-MS method allows the separated substances leaving the column of the GC machine to be detected.
Mass spectrometry - Higher tier
The mass spectrometer can be used to identify substances quickly and accurately, and in very small amounts. It can also provide the relative formula mass of the substances separated by gas chromatography. The peak furthest to the right in a mass spectrum is called the 'molecular ion peak'. Its relative mass is the relative formula mass of the substance being analysed