This article reports on the potential application of gas chromatography and benchtop vacuum ultraviolet (GC/VUV) to the analysis of ignitable liquids, which may be found on debris from suspected arson fires.
Recent advances in benchtop vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) spectrometers have yielded effective universal detectors for gas chromatography (GC). The ability of these detectors to acquire absorbance spectra from 125 nm to 430 nm poses an alternative to the gold standard of mass spectrometry (MS) as a sensitive and selective GC detector. The applications of GC/VUV extend into many areas. A particular compound class of interest is the alkylbenzenes, since they are a significant component in fuels such as gasoline, petroleum distillates, and aromatic solvents such as degreasers and cleaning solvents. To measure the sensitivity, selectivity and specificity of GC-VUV and GC-MS for alkylbenzenes, the current project employed both library search methods and chemometric analysis, using discriminant analysis. The GC-VUV detector was found to have superior specificity to the GC-MS detector in full scan mode. The GC-VUV detector was able to identify all alkylbenzenes correctly, including the correct identification of all structural isomers. LODs for both GC-VUV and GC-MS were found to be picograms on column. (publisher abstract modified)