Limitations to the use of solid-phase microextraction for quantitation of mixtures of volatile organic sulfur compounds

Anal Chem. 2001 Apr 1;73(7):1646-9. doi: 10.1021/ac001176m.


A study of the range of volatile organic sulfur compounds produced by brassica plants has highlighted limitations to the use of Carboxen/PDMS fibers for their analysis by solid-phase microextraction (SPME). These fibers are sometimes advocated for the analysis of sulfur gases, but a quantitative comparison of analytical data derived by SPME and by direct gas sampling of standard mixtures of volatile low molecular weight sulfur compounds at 0.01-10 mg/L has identified potential errors associated with their use. Higher molecular compounds displace lower molecular weight compounds as a consequence of competition for active sites on the fiber, and the relative proportions of the components adsorbed onto the fiber depend on their ratio in the headspace. As their relative concentrations change from sample to sample, the varying interactions result in irregular analytical responses, reflected in erratic calibration curves. Standards containing single components are not valid; only a standard containing all components found in the sample to be analyzed, and at the same relative concentrations, is appropriate. In practice, this may preclude the use of the fibers for quantitative analysis of multicomponent mixtures.