Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 410, Issue 10, pp 2619–2628 | Cite as

Compact devices for generation of reference trace VOC mixtures: a new concept in assuring quality at chemical and biochemical laboratories

  • Alessia Demichelis
  • Céline Pascale
  • Maricarmen Lecuna
  • Bernhard Niederhauser
  • Guido Sassi
  • Maria Paola Sassi
Research Paper


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in gas mixtures at trace level (nmol/mol) are routinely measured by chemical and biochemical laboratories as climate indicators, indoor air quality pollutants from building materials emissions, contaminants in food and beverages, and biomarkers in body fluids (blood, urine, breath) of occupational exposure or human diseases. Current analytical instruments used for measurements are gas chromatographs equipped with various injector and detector configurations. The assurance of measurement quality is done by using a huge amount of certified liquid VOC standard solutions (or gaseous VOC standard cylinders) with multiple dilutions to reach the required trace level. This causes high standard uncertainty in instrument calibrations, high cost, and high consumption of analysis and laboratory personal time. In this paper, we present the implementation of portable generators producing VOC gas standards at trace level for automatic and direct calibration of VOC detectors employed in various contexts, removing the need for preparation of matrix calibration standards in cylinders. Two compact devices in-house developed by two national metrology institutes—the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) and the Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS)—are here used to dynamically generate reference gas mixtures in an SI traceable way. The two devices are based on different technologies: diffusion and permeation, for INRIM and METAS, respectively. A metrological characterization is given and the practical implementation at chemical and biochemical laboratories is discussed.

Graphical abstract

Onsite calibration with transportable generation system with similar performances to primary laboratory devices.


Reference VOC gas mixtures Dynamic generation Metrological traceability GC calibration Chemical laboratory Biochemical laboratory 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessia Demichelis
    • 1
  • Céline Pascale
    • 2
  • Maricarmen Lecuna
    • 3
  • Bernhard Niederhauser
    • 2
  • Guido Sassi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Maria Paola Sassi
    • 1
  1. 1.Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica INRIMTorinoItaly
  2. 2.Federal Institute of Metrology METASBern-WabernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienza Applicata e TecnologiaPolitecnico di TorinoTorinoItaly

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