Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 1-6

Date: Latest Version

Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

  • Patricia M. MedeirosAffiliated withDepartment of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia Email author 


Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is one of the so-called hyphenated analytical techniques. It is actually two techniques that are combined to form a single method for analyzing mixtures of organic chemicals. Gas chromatography separates the components of a mixture, and mass spectrometry characterizes each of the components individually. The combination of the two techniques allows for both qualitative and quantitative evaluations of a sample containing a number of organic compounds. The uses for GC-MS are numerous, including chemical, geological, environmental, and forensic research.


Structure elucidation of organic compounds has been carried out by organic chemists since the early 1900s. Chromatography is an analytical technique used to separate mixtures of chemicals into individual components, and it was first employed in the separation of plant pigments (chlorophyll, carotenes, and xanthophylls) in 1901 (Ettre 2001) ...

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