40 May / June 2021

complexity level of chemical features and the separation, detection, and identification of these is clearly significantly enhanced by the use of GCxGC in combination with the fast acquisition of TOF-MS.

Furthermore, the typical fingerprint of chemicals derived from thermal degradation of plastics in overlap with other compounds from the desorbed matrix, especially in environmental matrices, presents an additional level of complexity, and therefore uncertainty, on whether some chemicals may be potential MP markers or if they could be derived from another source. Due to this, most existing methods involve time-consuming and personnel-intensive purification steps of the sample matrix to isolate and/or concentrate the plastic matrix prior to actual analysis. Therefore, it is possible that the novel two-step desorption/ pyrolysis approach described and tested here might overcome this issue. These results pave the way for future studies

on the optimisation of two-phase TD/Py- GCxGC-TOF-MS for the analyses of ambient aerosols containing microplastics.


We thank Dr Stephanie Wright, Imperial College London (UK), for providing standards and samples and the valuable discussion during the proof-of-concept phase and Dr David Green (Imperial College London) for providing the samples. Some measurements and conceptual work was performed at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, Cooperation Group: Complex molecular Analytics (CMA).


1. publication/337506127 2. Alabi et al., J Toxicol Risk Assess 2019, 5:021

3. Stephen E. Stein, J Am Soc Mass Spectrom 1994,5, 859 -866[4] J.A. Gonzales- Perez, Pyrolysis-gas chromatography-isotope ratio mass spectrometry of polyethylene, J.Chromatogr. A 1388 (2015) 236-243

5. S.C. Moldoveanu, Analytical Pyrolysis of Synthetic Organic Polymers, Elsevier, Amsterdam 2015

6. P.Kusch, Application of Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry, Comprehensive Analytical Chemistry December 2016


8. Wenig, P. & Odermatt, J. Efficient analysis of Py-GC/MS data by a large scale automatic database approach: An illustration of white pitch identification in pulp and paper industry, Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis 87, 85–92 (2010)

New SPE Microplate Selection Guide Announced

RSA™ Autosampler Vials for Not All Vials Are Created Equally & Only RSA™

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More information online:

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