Gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS) are two extremely powerful chemical techniques that have been used in a variety of applications since their inception. It wasn’t until the two techniques were coupled that the chemical analysis field changed forever. GC/MS has been used for forensic science cases, quality assurance and control, and is still one of the most utilized analysis technique in chemical research. This technique is the predominant technique used in the essential oil/ flavoring industry for identifying the chemical composition of a given product.
In our labratory we have designed a number of techniques that aid us in our testing of our essential oils. We have colaberated with many different scientists and data bases around the world to set standards for what we expect in our oils. For example if we are testing a highland Lavender from France we would expect a certain amount of linalool and linalyl acetate to be in the sample. If our tests show that the linalool is below 20% then we flag the oil and we do not order the oil from that distiller and find a vendor who can produce the highest quality linalool based lavender.
Gas chromatography is a process of chemical separation that has been used for decades to separate the most complex solutions of chemical compounds. Both gas separation and liquid separation are possible due to the high temperature of injection that turns the oil into vapor where it maintains its physical state throughout the separation process. This vapor travels along a column where its chemical and physical properties are determined based on its interaction with the column.
Some chemical constituents will interact with the column and some will not. By raising the temperature at a slow rate, a technician can create a temperature profile that can be used to separate the compounds. As the temperature increases, greater chemical separation can occur. Based on the temperature profile, a consistent and efficient analysis can occur. This is the key to the reproducibility of the method.
Each column differs chemically and physically. It is these differences that change how the separation will occur. Ultimately, they determine the order in which the constituents come out of the column.
As the chemicals leave the column, they reach the mass spectrum detector. This detector bombards the chemical compounds with a strongly charged force. The compound is then fragmented by a magnetic field into a unique configuration, like a fingerprint. An example of the results of this fragmenting can be seen in figure 2 below. It is fairly simple for small compounds but grows in complexity with larger compounds.
With this technique, a Certificate of Analysis is created that identifies the chemical percentages of a given essential oil, absolute, or CO2 extracted oil. Certificates of Analysis for each and every Ananda product can be found on this website. Our science department, run by Dr. Anthony Ferrari, PhD in Analytical Chemistry, and Lab Technician Mikella Zgliczynska, analyzes every essential and carrier oil that enters our facility. With our expertise in analytical chemistry, we can analyze all of our oils with high precision and accuracy. We also have begun to try new analytical techniques and automation to help streamline all of the database spectra and international standards we use. We look forward to sharing these techniques with the essential oil world soon and begin to encourage more collaboration and transparency in the field as a whole.