Is Hydrogen Under-utilized as a Carrier Gas?

There are plenty of resources online that suggest “best practices” and “preferred equipment” to assist lab managers as they procure supplies and accessories for their workplace. Labs that regularly perform gas chromatography (GC) testing demand carrier gas to feed their equipment.  But with various carrier gas options available, it is sometimes tricky to quickly identify which is the proper fit for one’s needs.

Lab managers seeking carrier gas should first ask themselves these two key questions:

  1. Delivered Gas VS. On-site Gas Generators – which is right for me?
  2. Helium VS. Hydrogen VS. Nitrogen – which do I prefer?


Delivered Gas VS. On-site Gas Generators

Every lab is different. Some labs require multiple gas chromatographs to meet the demand of their testing. The more equipment you require, the more gas you need. It’s simple really. However, purchasing bottled gases is not without its headaches. Aside from being costly and cumbersome, users who opt for delivered gases are leaving their labs susceptible to price hikes, purity discrepancies, safety concerns and asphyxiation risks.

On-site gas generators are a reliable and safer solution to provide your lab with high purity hydrogen and nitrogen gas for GCMS carrier and FID applications. On-site gas generators generate the gas you need when you need it with zero inventory. This mitigates the risks associated with storing bottled gases. Gone are the hours spent swapping cylinders they no longer clutter your lab when using on-site gas generators. Headaches from bottled gas price volatility and supply disruptions are alleviated. A reliable gas generator allows you to continue your lab operations and conduct your testing worry-free.


Helium VS. Hydrogen VS. Nitrogen

In gas chromatography, there are 3 choices of carrier gas- helium, hydrogen, and nitrogen.  Helium is certainly an excellent carrier gas for gas chromatography applications. It delivers fast results and requires little-to-no adjustment to your equipment. The downside is that Helium is expensive.

Hydrogen is a direct substitute for Helium in most applications. It delivers faster results than helium and lab staff can achieve the same accuracy with a few minor adjustments to their equipment. If risks associated with the use of bottled hydrogen are weighing on your decision, then consider the issue resolved. On-site gas generators produce the hydrogen required in direct relation to the demand, making this equipment most effective solution to source carrier gas.

Nitrogen can be used in some GC testing as well. In this instance, lab staff must adjust the column so the equipment can utilize nitrogen.  Nitrogen gas is much slower than hydrogen and helium, which means your test results will take significantly longer. Nitrogen is very affordable, but if you plan of running all of your GC equipment using nitrogen, think again, because it is not compatible with all GC test methods.


Now You Know

Every lab is different, but when it comes to carrier gas you have options. There are many requirements you should consider when evaluating a carrier gas, to name a few: testing methods, equipment gas demand, lab size, and purity requirements. For more information about on-site gas generation and making the switch from helium to hydrogen please visit: