Integrated sampling and analysis unit for the determination of sexual pheromones in environmental air using fabric phase sorptive extraction and headspace-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr A. 2017 Mar 10;1488:17-25. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2017.01.077. Epub 2017 Jan 27.


This article presents a novel unit that integrates for the first time air sampling and preconcentration based on the use of fabric phase sorptive extraction principles. The determination of Tuta absoluta sexual pheromone traces in environmental air has been selected as analytical problem. For this aim, a novel laboratory-built unit made up of commercial brass elements as holder of the sol-gel coated fabric extracting phase has been designed and optimized. The performance of the integrated unit was evaluated analyzing environmental air sampled in tomato crops. The unit can work under sampling and analysis mode which eliminates any need for sorptive phase manipulation prior to instrumental analysis. In the sampling mode, the unit can be connected to a sampling pump to pass the air through the sorptive phase at a controlled flow-rate. In the analysis mode, it is placed in the gas chromatograph autosampler without any instrumental modification. It also diminishes the risk of cross contamination between sampling and analysis. The performance of the new unit has been evaluated using the main components of the sexual pheromone of Tuta absoluta [(3E,8Z,11Z)-tetradecatrien-1-yl acetate and (3E,8Z)-tetradecadien-1-yl acetate] as model analytes. The limits of detection for both compounds resulted to be 1.6μg and 0.8μg, respectively, while the precision (expressed as relative standard deviation) was better than 3.7%. Finally, the unit has been deployed in the field to analyze a number of real life samples, some of them were found positive.

Keywords: Air sampling; Pheromone; Preconcentration; Sol-gel coated fabric phases.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Phase Transition
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Attractants / analysis*
  • Temperature
  • Textiles
  • Time Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Sex Attractants