Gerstel: Intelligent Automation for GC/MS and LC.MS

What is Automated SIFT-MS?

Automated SIFT-MS

Automated SIFT-MS is the result of the recent collaboration between GERSTEL and Syft Technologies to provide turnkey automated platforms for SIFT-MS solutions in routine and R&D laboratories.

Autosampler integration is the simplest and most cost-effective way to leverage high sample throughput from the rapid, direct gas analysis provided by SIFT-MS. An autosampler improves repeatability and reproducibility compared to manual analysis and eliminates operator error.


SIFT-MS is a direct mass spectrometry technique (that is, it has no pre-separation using chromatography), its requirements for an autosampler differ from those commonly used with GC. GC-based techniques require rapid injection to achieve good chromatographic separation; chromatography leads to prolonged analysis as individual compounds elute from the column over time. However, SIFT-MS requires steady sample injection for the duration of the analysis, because analysis is carried out simultaneously with injection (Figure below). The GERSTEL (Linthicum, Md.) Multipurpose Sampler (MPS) has proven to be the best-suited off-the-shelf autosampler system for SIFT-MS. Autosampler integration opens diverse applications of the technique for contract and R&D laboratories.

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Syft Technologies chose GERSTEL products, because the MPS autosamplers are based on syringe injection, already accommodate the slow sample injection required by SIFT-MS, have class-leading GERSTEL Maestro software, and are very flexible to meet the new application requirements and changing needs of customers.

Analytical Equipment:

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  • Syft Voice200 SIFT-MS: Platform capable of high-throughput gas and headspace analysis for VOCs and inorganic gases.
  • AVI: Auto-validation inlet allows switching between sample, calibration standard, and background gas streams.
  • MPI: Multi-port inlet enables multiple sample streams to be analyzed (in addition to AVI capabilities).
  • GERSTEL MPS Robotic Autosampler: Multi-purpose sampler available with wide range of accessories to meet diverse automated analysis needs, from vials to sample bags to canisters.
  • GERSTEL Maestro software: Powerful control and scheduling software for the GERSTEL MPS.
  • Autosampler integration kit: All the hardware required for integrating the Voice200ultra and the GERSTEL MPS autosampler.
  • LabSyft: Software package for viewing and analyzing SIFT-MS data from multiple instruments, customizing analyses, and interacting with the Voice200ultra.


Automated SIFT-MS Tedlar Bag Sampling:

Tedlar bags are a convenient and cost-effective option for sampling volatile organic compounds, for toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) in ambient air.  However, the contents need to be analyzed quickly, as residence time in the bag is short – typically less than 24 hours.  Quick analyzation is vital.  In addition, automating the entire process should significantly increase your sample throughput.

Our partners at Anatune recently coupled a GERSTEL Multipurpose Sampler to our SIFT-MS, realizing the benefits of both systems.  SIFT-MS – selective, sensitive and fast; GERSTEL MPS – flexible and efficient automation.

The video above shows the system in action, sampling a range of small aldehydes quickly and easily.  Clearly, the ability to test 100s of bags per day is now an option

Automated SIFT-MS Excels in Rapid Classification of Consumer Products: Green Coffee Beans


  1. Green coffee beans of various origins (Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Sumatra (Indonessia)) were obtained from a New Zealand importer.
  2. Single beans were placed in 10-mL sample vials (seven replicates per origin) and equilibrated at room temperature (~22 °C) for 30 minutes in a standard sample vial tray on a GERSTEL Multipurpose Sampler (MPS).
  3. Analysis was carried out using a Voice200ultra SIFT-MS instrument in full scan mode integrated with the GERSTEL MPS.
  4. Multivariate statistical analysis was performed using the Pirouette software package (from Infometrix).


The potential of applying this kind of multivariate analysis to Automated SIFT-MS analysis is huge: rapid sample analysis combined with automatic classification allows companies to quickly check the quality and the authenticity of incoming product.

Rapid Analysis of Residual Solvents

While solvents are frequently used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, the presence of these (often toxic) solvents in the end products is of concern. Rapid, mass-screening of products for residual solvents would significantly improve QA/QC processes in the pharmaceutical industry. Because Automated SIFT-MS analysis is direct, it can even be implemented on an existing conveyor system without impacting on the manufacturing time.

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The figure above shows the simultaneous analysis of a multicomponent mixture of solvents, including benzene and toluene, as well as chromatographically challenging species such as ammonia and formaldehyde. All 13 compounds were monitored within 90 seconds.

Rapid Analysis of Packaging Materials

Many food and pharmaceutical products are packaged in some form of polymer-based material. Residual monomers in packaging can interact with the drug formulations in pharmaceutical products or affect the aroma or safety of food products. SIFT-MS is ideally suited to residual monomer analysis, because these compounds tend to be volatile and are readily released into the packaging headspace.

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The figure above illustrates the rapid determination of monomer impurities in packaging using SIFT-MS. For illustrative purposes, all samples were analyzed for all compounds in one scan, with a throughput of 60 seconds per sample.

The residual monomer concentrations shown in the figure above represents the amount of monomer that has partitioned from the polymer material into the headspace, and it is possible that a significant amount of monomer remains within the bulk of the material. The ratio of monomer retained to monomer released into the headspace is related to the partition coefficient of these compounds. Without knowing these values for the analytes in these matrices, and under these experimental conditions, it is not possible to calculate the total amount of residual monomer in the sample. Additionally, complete equilibrium of the headspace may not have been reached, further complicating the measurement.

If multiple headspace measurements could be made and a total concentration calculated from all measurements, the actual concentration of residual monomer within the solid could be found. However, this would require a significant number of measurements to ensure total removal of all monomer within the polymer.

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The multiple headspace extraction (MHE) technique is a headspace technique that calculates the total concentration from a limited number of consecutive headspace analysis by recognizing that the decrease in concentration over multiple headspace measurements is exponential. A headspace concentration is generated, the concentration measured and then flushed or vented and a new headspace generated.

The figure below shows sequential MHE measurements of formaldehyde emitted from ground POM polymer. The concentration data are summarized in the table.

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It has been suggested that the first point of any MHE measurement can be prone to experimental error. Possible sources include the change in gas matrix from measurement 1 to 2 due to the flush cycle and excessively long-standing time for the first headspace generation. It can clearly be seen that the first concentration measured is significantly higher than the subsequent measurements. This is probably due to the relatively high extraction temperature (80°C) used in this experiment for this polymer type, which causes a significant release of formaldehyde from the top layers of the polymer particles compared to the slower release from the internal bulk. Further analysis also showed the second concentration measurement to be higher than expected. Since the MHE technique relies on adding all concentrations together, the total concentration is calculated from the sum of the first two injections and the extrapolated fit to injection 3 onward the figure. Equation 1 gives the fit equation and the table below summarizes the parameters, where ‘Extrapolated injection 3’ in the table refers to the injection 1 value recalculated from the linear fit.

Total HCHO concentration = Conc.( Inj. 1) + Conc.(Inj. 2) + Conc.(Extrapolated Inj. 3) / (1 – eslope)    (1)

This gives a total residual monomer concentration of 13.8 ppmv formaldehyde in the headspace. Conversion of this concentration to mg/m3 and accounting for vial volume, inlet dilution and injection temperature yields a formaldehyde concentration of 41 µg g 1 of POM polymer.

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The speed of Automated SIFT-MS analysis revolutionizes the MHE technique – which is traditionally an expensive undertaking with slow chromatographic-based analytical techniques. With Automated SIFT-MS, each analysis takes less than one minute, enabling multiple concurrent analyses to be carried out, because the multiple samples can regenerate their headspace while the next sample is analyzed. Using a standard GERSTEL six-vial agitator designed for use with GC/MS, a 6.5-fold increase in throughput is achieved for SIFT-MS.


GERSTEL and Syft Technologies are pleased to announce a two-stop workshop tour on Automated Direct MS. These hands-on workshops will include discussions and practical presentations on how SIFT-MS integrated with GERSTEL automation tools can increase analytical throughput in industries concerned with:

  • Material emissions
  • Pharma / Biomedical monitoring
  • Food / Flavor / Fragrance analysis
  • Environmental and Workplace safety

These workshops will give attendees insight into how customers around the world in these industries are already utilizing SIFT-MS, and how the power of GERSTEL automation coupled with real-time mass spectrometry can enhance sample throughput exponentially.

This is a great opportunity to see automated direct mass spectrometry in action, with the GERSTEL MPS and SIFT-MS operating live at the event! If you and your team have a focus on one or more of these industries, see below for more information and our registration links. Lunch and refreshments provided throughout the day.

Use the links below to register and view the agendas of our upcoming seminars:

Richmond, VA: Click Here to View Agenda and Register

Raleigh-Durham, NC: Click Here to View Agenda and Register


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