Super Safi’s Monday Morning Musings 45 – Gas Chromatography

Morning Musically-Minded, Medically-Minded, Masticators!

(Today’s post is sponsored by the letter “M”)

Over the past 600+ episodes, The Simpsons has taken us on an amazing journey involving music, science, and food to name a few concepts.

And what better way to start your week, then by discussing some of these concepts Monday morning?

So let’s get started this week by talking about a common lab technique, gas chromatography.

In the forty fifth episode of The Simpsons, Flaming Moe’s (Season 03, Episode 10), when Moe’s Tavern is facing financial difficulty, Homer makes Moe his signature drink, a ‘Flaming Homer’. A ‘Flaming Homer’ is a combination of lots of liquors, children’s cough syrup (Krusty’s Non-Narkotik Kough Syrup for Kids), and then lighting it on fire. Moe tries a ‘Flaming Homer’ and really enjoys it.

Moe: “Wow, Homer! It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and everybody’s invited!

Moe steals the recipe and calls it a ‘Flaming Moe’. The drink becomes an overnight sensation and saves Moe’s Tavern from financial ruin. However, competitors are eager to find out the secret ingredient in the hit drink.

Professor Frink: “All right, according to the gas chromatograph, the secret ingredient is…love?! Who’s been screwing with this thing?

At the school, Ms. Krabappel has the students present on their favourite inventors. While Martin presents on A J P Martin, Bart presents on Homer.

Martin: “The next time you use a gas chromatograph remember to thank Mr. A.J.P. Martin.

But have you ever wondered what a gas chromatograph is?


Gas Chromatography

Gas chromatography is a technique used in analytical chemistry to separate the chemical components of a sample mixture and then analyze compounds that can be vaporized without decomposition. It’s main uses include 1) testing the purity of a particular substance, 2) separating the different components of a mixture, or 3) identifying a compound.

Russian botanist Mikhail Semenovich Tswett (14 May 1872 – 26 June 1919) separated plant pigments via liquid column chromatography in 1903. German chemist Erika Cremer (20 May 1900 – 21 September 1996) laid down the theoretical principles of gas chromatography in 1944. In 1952, British chemists Archer John Porter Martin (1 March 1910 – 28 July 2002) and Richard Synge (28 October 1914 – 18 August 1994) developed the first gas chromatograph; although Martin only gave credit to Archer in his presentation for Ms. Krabappel. For their invention, both Archer and Richard were awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Archer John Porter Martin (1 March 1910 – 28 July 2002)

A gas chromatograph uses a flow-through narrow tube known as the column or analytical column, through which different chemical constituents of a sample pass in a gas stream (called the mobile phase) at different rates depending on their various chemical and physical properties and their interaction with a specific column filling in a gas cylinder (called the stationary phase). As the chemicals exit the end of the column, they are detected and identified electronically by the detector.


Now that we’ve learned more about gas chromatography, be sure to come back next week when we continue our Monday morning musings with the next episode of The Simpsons.

What’s your favourite Simpsons invention episode? What about your favourite Simpsons Moe-centric episode? Were you familiar with gas chromatography? Have you ever seen a gas chromatograph in use? What’s your favourite lab tool? Sound off in the comments below. You know we love hearing from you.

9 responses to “Super Safi’s Monday Morning Musings 45 – Gas Chromatography

  1. Brings back memories, I used to run a GC years ago at work in the waste water industry. Biggest pain was repacking the central column & changing over the gas bottles. I’m sure nowadays they are a lot more sophisticated but in my time still a useful bit of kit.

  2. My husband has invented a very simple gas chromatograph for demonstrations at highschool. ( It uses gas lighters-gas to make a chromatogram.

  3. would this not just be the same a gas analyser ? ensuring the analyser is calibrated with a reference gas before the raw gas is sampled ? almost certain gas analysers have been around for some time now

    • One analyzer usually can measure just one component. Gas chromatographs are capable of measuring more complex gases, and an entire range of gases, all in just one unit. Gas chromatographs are more complex and expensive than gas analyzers.

  4. Anyone else having trouble today? Keeps logging me out and updating the same 1101mb update every time- it’s getting a little weary- First World Problems or what!😄

  5. Stay tuned for next week: mass spectroscopy!

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