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Packed/Micropacked Column Troubleshooting – Part 3 – Short Column Lifetime

2 May 2023
My third and final installment of the packed/micropacked column troubleshooting series will focus on short column lifetime.
Questions you may be asking yourself:
  • “Why did my new/current packed/micropacked column not last as long as the previous column?”
  • “Why did my new/current packed/micropacked column not last as long as expected?”
To assist us in determining a possible cause, you may be asked one or more of the following questions.   To help expediate our investigation, you may want to have the following information available before contacting us.
  1. What are the catalog number(s) and serial number(s) of all columns involved?
    • Providing us catalog numbers, serial numbers and/or Restek Sales Order numbers will allow us to review manufacturing data (if necessary) and know the age of the columns.
  1. How long did the previous column last and why did it need replaced?
    • Knowing how long each column was used, from the date of installation or number of injections, should provide us a general idea of your expectations for the product.
  1. If the replacement column did not resolve the issue, did it experience the same issue(s) as the column it replaced?
    • Back-to-back column failures may indicate a system issue (such as poor-quality carrier gas, a leak, or improper installation) and not a column issue.
  1. Was the replacement column installed into the exact same GC as the previous column?
    • We may ask to see “good” and “bad” chromatograms from the same instrument on the same day.  We may ask you to install the column into a different instrument (if possible).
  1. What method are you following?
    1. Certain compounds and matrices can cause a column’s performance to degrade rapidly. We may ask you for a summary of your analysis and/or to send us a pdf of your method.
    2. Was the column’s maximum temperature exceeded?
  1. Has anything else changed besides column lifetime?
    1. Are the samples from a different area/location?
    2. Is a different person preparing and/or analyzing the samples?
    3. Was the carrier gas cylinder recently changed/replaced or was the carrier gas generator recently serviced?
  1. Which troubleshooting steps have been performed.
    1. How was the system checked for leaks?
    2. When were the gas filters last inspected and/or replaced?
      • Installing at least one filter which contains an indicator for oxygen and moisture is highly recommended because removing oxygen and moisture from the carrier gas is imperative for long column life.  We may ask to see a photo of your gas filters/traps to confirm that the indicating material for oxygen and moisture is not spent.
    1. Are any other instruments performing the same analysis? If so, how long are those columns lasting?
Providing us detailed answers to the questions above may help us determine if the column’s life was reasonable, or shorter than we would expect.  If shorter, we will attempt to determine why.  Hopefully our findings will improve the lifetime of your next packed/micropacked column. 
I hope you have found my series on packed/micropacked column troubleshooting helpful.  Thanks for reading.