About Odor Analysis

Odor is generated when molecules from an object volatilize and float through the air into your nose.  By placing that object into a closed sampling vessel and heating it using a known temperature profile, it is possible to sample the volatile molecules being given off by the object and determine what they are.  The technique we use to perform this analysis is Headspace Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (Headspace GC/MS).

  • Approaches

    Solid or liquid samples are sealed in headspace vials.  The headspace vials are typically heated to drive the volatiles from the solid or liquid phase into the gas phase.  Sample vials can be agitated during heating.

    Sampling of the Headspace for GC/MS injection is usually performed using a heated gas-tight syringe.  If greater sensitivity is required, solid phase micro-extraction (SPME) can be used to concentrate volatiles prior to GC/MS analysis.

  • Sample Considerations

    Virtually any sample that can be made to fit into a headspace vial can be tested.  However, the sample matrix itself should not be highly volatile.

    The required sample size for Headspace GC/MS is inversely proportional to the concentration(s) of volatile compounds that must be detected or quantified.

    A sample size of 0.1 g to 10 g is typical for headspace GC/MS. 

    Samples should be sent to us in a tightly sealed container that doesn’t release any volatiles of its own.

    Contact us to talk about your specific sample considerations and chromatography testing needs.

  • Applications

    We thoroughly enjoy these projects; they tend to be extremely unique and interesting.  Some examples include:

    • Identification of source of foul smell coming from a popular snack food
    • Identification of odor coming from mulch on a playground
    • Analysis of strong and objectionable odor coming from dog food containers
    • Identification of compounds responsible for off-odor in post-consumer recycled carpet