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GC Particle Traps


Modern PLOT columns offer incredible stability that minimizes particle release, but during transportation, gas flow changes, or valve switching, some particles may dislodge and release from the column.  

Particle traps are PDMS-coated columns designed to catch any particles that are released from a PLOT column. And in this Restek Tip, we’re going to show you how to connect a particle trap to a PLOT column using a Press-Tight connector.

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Modern porous layer open tubular columns—or PLOT columns—offer incredible stability that minimizes particle release. Nevertheless, during transportation, gas flow changes, or valve switching, some particles may dislodge and release from the column. These particles can then cause spikes in the chromatogram or damage switching valves leading to time-consuming and costly side effects. 

In this Restek Tip, we’re going to look at connecting a GC PLOT column to a particle trap using a Press-Tight connector. Let’s begin by exploring what a particle trap is and how it works. 

Particle traps are PDMS-coated columns designed to catch any particles that are released from a PLOT column. For atmospheric pressure outlets such as valves, flow switching devices, or even FID and TCD detectors, half a meter to two meters of a particle trap column with the same ID as the PLOT column is sufficient. Whereas for mass spec detectors, a column length of five meters with a 0.18 or 0.25 millimeter ID is recommended. Not only will this aid in particle trapping, but it will also help manage the flow into the MS. 

Prior to installing the particle trap, condition the PLOT column out of the detector using three times higher the column flow than your application suggests. We recommend programming the GC oven to heat up at 5°C per minute up to the column’s maximum temperature. Once reached, hold this temperature for at least an hour—this should allow any loose particles to elute from the column.

Now that conditioning is complete, it’s time to cut the end of the PLOT column and the particle trap column. A scoring wafer should be used to achieve a straight, square cut, which is essential to correctly connect the Press-Tight connector. Next we’ll prepare the PLOT column by lightly tapping, or flicking the end of the column with your fingers to remove any loose particles. Clean the ends of the PLOT column and the particle trap with a lint-free wipe moistened with methanol or isopropanol to remove any finger oils and any other impurities. 

Now we’ll connect the columns together using the Press-Tight connector. While holding the connector in one hand, gently insert the PLOT column end into the connector until it is gripped firmly. Be careful not to press too hard or the column end will crush. And now we’ll simply repeat the process with the particle trap, gently inserting it into the other end of the connector. A continuous brown ring where the column end compresses inside the connector indicates a proper connection. 

Visually inspect both seals and leak check the connections using an electronic leak detector. If you notice a leak, cut a small portion of the column in question and reconnect. And that’s it—you’re ready to go. Decrease the column flow and you’re set to start your analysis. 

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