Helium is a rare noble gas that can only be obtained from helium-containing natural gas sources in a few places on earth.
The global helium infrastructure, logistics and thus the supply, is facing great challenges and changes. Geopolitical events, natural events, dwindling sources, technical events at the extraction facilities and necessary maintenance and revision measures influence the availability. This has a strong impact on the cost structure and thus the market price.
Due to its low price and availability, helium has been the standard carrier gas for most GC-MS users over the past 30-40 years. Since the helium deficiency in 2012/13, a series of GC-MS methods that used to be carried out exclusively with helium as the carrier gas have been validated for use with hydrogen carrier gas to offer laboratories the option cheaper alternatives to helium.
To take into account the different viscosity, the conversion to hydrogen as GC-MS carrier gas requires a complete revision of the existing method. Sensitivity losses are also found, especially with weaker pumping systems (smaller turbopumps. With regard to the flammability of hydrogen, the installation of a hydrogen sensor in the gas chromatograph oven chamber is highly recommended.
To reduce the consumption of increasingly scarce and therefore more expensive helium, CHROMTECH has developed the Helium EcoSaver option for GC and GC-MS systems. When using this system, only helium is consumed when it is actually needed, during a measurement, or during a sample sequence. Thereafter, the carrier gas supply is automatically switched to a different gas, eg. nitrogen. The switch to measurement mode with helium is either automatic, by starting a measurement or sequence, or manually by pressing a button on the control unit. In either case, after switching the carrier gas type, a purge time set by the user enables flushing out residues of e.g. nitrogen from the chromatographic system. Only then does the measurement or sample series start.
This can be part of a method for Agilent GC or GC/MS systems and also supports previous Agilent GC models. For other GC brands the carrier gas switch is performed by pressing a button on the unit.