A carefully designed and faithfully executed preventative maintenance program is the best method for maintaining your scientific instruments. Keeping up with daily, weekly, monthly, and even quarterly maintenance tasks will help maintain the performance of the unit and decrease downtime. Maintenance checklists can be found in the manual to your Teledyne Tekmar instrument. The manual can also be an immense help with troubleshooting, because it has tips and instrument flow diagrams.
Sometimes these checklists can expose an issue that needs to be addressed. Before you begin to troubleshoot your instruments, examine the facts and use valid reasoning. Look at your data and flow diagrams; really try to get a feel for what is going on — quick fixes might burn you in the long run. Also, don’t try to fix everything all in one go. Do one thing at a time so you can really narrow down what the issue is. Overall, being patient with troubleshooting will save you time and money. Being able to notice when there are missing peaks, little or no analyte response, or variability with your internal standard will help you to identify the root cause of the problem.
Split your system into four separate entities:
- Detector, usually a Mass Spectrometer (MS)
- Gas Chromatograph (GC)
- Purge and Trap (P&T)
It is not necessary to disconnect the P&T to eliminate the GC-MS as the culprit, because the P&T is in line with the carrier gas. Make sure that it is passing BFB tune. If you see poor chromatography with a direct injection, you know that the issue lies within the GC, particularly in the inlet liner or the column. Once you can confirm that it is not the GC-MS, you can then proceed to the P&T.
To eliminate the P&T, first run a leak check. That will help you identify a leaky valve or a connection that is not leak-free. Double check that you have the correct analytical trap in place for the method you are running. Some traps do not retain and release certain compounds, so if you are not using the correct trap for your method, you will not see those compounds in your chromatogram. To eliminate the autosampler, you can manually load your sample into the sparger.
Throughout this troubleshooting series, we will be diving deep into these troubleshooting topics:
- No response of your analytes
- Carryover and contamination
- Elution issue
- Water interference
- Internal standard recovery variability
- Linearity and reproducibility issues
In upcoming blog posts, we will go over our two TekLink tools to help with troubleshooting in more detail: system leak check and benchmark test.
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