The single biggest factor in obtaining a suitable GC separation is the choice of column chemistry. Get it right and everything moves smoothly, get it wrong and you’ll waste a lot of time trying to optimize all the wrong parameters before having to buy another column anyway.
As it’s the most critical part of the separation there is a huge choice of stationary phase chemistry – mostly defined by a seemingly arcane numbering system. This numbering system, however, gives a measure of the polarity of the column and the type of bonded chemistry – from non-polar ‘1’ phases up to polar ‘wax’ phases and everything in between.
If in doubt, pick something in the middle – the ‘5’ phase being a very popular choice applicable to a diverse range of applications.
For a quick description of the main stationary phase chemistries used in capillary GC see the following :
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