Today, I’d like to cover a question that I have been receiving from cannabis labs who are doing residual solvents analysis. This blog may not only help cannabis labs, but also help labs analyzing other matrices looking for residual solvents or very volatile compounds. The question is, “Which type of vial and vial cap combination should we use to do our analysis?”
This is referring to the screw-thread caps (18 mm) and crimp caps (20 mm) for 20 mL headspace (HS) vials. So instead of just recommending one or the other based on “feel” or price, we decided to run a little experiment to compare the performance of the two styles. The experiment was designed to analyze a few very volatile compounds and gather data on how well these two types of caps prevent the compounds from escaping the HS vial over the course of a specific period of time. To familiarize yourself with the products that we were working with, please reference Figures 1 & 2.
Figure 1. Screw Cap HS Vial: PN#23082 and Screw Cap: PN#23092
Figure 2. Crimp Cap HS Vial: PN#21162 and Crimp Cap: PN#21761
Sample preparation included adding propane, butane, and isobutane standards in N,N-Dimethylacetamide (DMA) along with α,α,α-Trifluorotoluene as the ISTD to a 20 mL HS vial. To model the vial cap’s ability to keep these volatile compounds from escaping the vial, we designed a time study. In this study, 14 samples were prepared for each vial type and the samples were split into two sets of 7. Set one (T0) was run immediately after the samples were prepared and set two (T6) was run 6 hours later. It should also be noted that the crimp cap pressure was set to model the tightness of a screw cap. This meaning that the amount of torque needed to remove a screw cap was similar to that of the torque needed to spin a crimped, crimp cap.
The average compound area count from T0 to T6 were compared by calculating the relative percent loss over the 6 hour period of time. The relative percent difference for each HS vial type can be seen in Figure 3.
Figure 3. HS Vial Cap Comparison
From the data shown in Figure 3, we can see that the screw caps (blue) did not seal as well from T0 to T6 compared to the crimp caps (red). It is also worth noting that we see very little change in our ISTD over the 6 hour time period for both the screw cap and the crimp cap.
After looking at the data and taking everything in, I think it is suffice to say that if you are working in a lab doing HS analysis of very volatile compounds (gases), you should be using crimp caps. However, even if crimp caps are being used, one still needs to be cautious of the fact that the lighter, more volatile compounds, like the compounds shown here, are still capable of escaping the HS vial. Now, with all this being said, I don’t want to give the impression that screw cap HS vials are worthless. They can definitely be used in HS analysis, especially if the compounds being analyzed are on the less volatile side or your time from sample preparation to analysis is kept to a minimum. As an example take a look at the minimal differences of α,α,α-Trifluorotoluene, so for many customers analyzing the standard list of solvents and volatiles a screw cap may be appropriate.