The calming scent of fresh jasmine. The refreshing aroma of orange. The intoxicating smell of cinnamon. For centuries, humans have been adorning themselves with fragrant perfumes and oils to feel happier, treat medical conditions, show personality and simply smell amazing.
As a result, the fragrance industry is hard at work developing and perfecting scents that we’ll go crazy for. In fact, the global perfume market value was estimated to hit nearly $40 billion by the end of 2016, and is expected to grow by 5.9% in the next 10 years, according to Future Market Insights.
But how do perfume makers craft the perfect cocktail of ingredients to make irresistible fragrances? Well, gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) definitely plays a role. Below we dive into the why and how.
Why GC/MS is Used by Perfume Makers
Modern perfumes combine both natural and synthetic essential oils and aroma compounds, as well as a solvent such as ethanol or water. But the trick is ensuring that the mixture will have the desired effect once it’s actually applied to the human body; body temperature plays a role in releasing the aromas.
GC/MS allows perfume makers to separate, identify and quantify the aromatic compounds within a sample. As a result, this analytical testing technique can help perfume makers with:
- Quality control of raw materials and ingredients, and the final product.
- Product development.
- Troubleshooting fragrances that are giving off unknown or unanticipated smells.
- Reverse engineering to gain a competitive edge.
- Understanding how storage conditions (i.e. exposure to heat, cold, light or darkness; or packaging types) affects aroma.
How GC/MS Is Used by Perfume Makers
Oftentimes, headspace analysis is conducted in tandem with GC/MS to extract the volatile and semi-volatile compounds within a perfume sample. There are two types of headspace analysis: static and dynamic.
Static Headspace Analysis
Static headspace analysis can offer a more accurate depiction of how perfume is actually used. However, only a small fraction of the sample makes it into the GC column, so it’s typically used when a sample has high concentrations of compounds.
How it Works: In this type of analysis, the sample is placed in a vial, sealed and heated to a specific temperature so that the volatile components escape into the open headspace above. The headspace gas is then injected into a gas chromatograph to separate the various components of the sample based on size and polarity. The separated components then go into a mass selective detector for identification.
Dynamic Headspace Analysis
Dynamic headspace analysis allows more headspace vapor to travel to the GC column, while also leaving behind water that could degrade the analysis. However, the typical sensitivity for compounds analyzed by dynamic analysis is a nanogram per gram.
How it Works: This technique is a form of a “purge and trap” method. First, the sample is placed in a heated vessel and then purged with a gas. The gas then flows from the vessel through a sorbent material, which collects the outgassed components. Lastly, outgassed components are flushed from the sorbent material onto the column for GC/MS analysis.
To learn more about how GC/MS is used across a variety of industries, check out our post How Stuff Works: GC/MS Analysis. If you’re looking for perfume sample analysis or have other questions, get in touch with us.