Replacing Helium with Hydrogen for Yielding Better Results in the GC Process

According to the Bureau of Land Management, crude helium price has increased by 50% in the past decade as U.S. supplies decline. Hence, many laboratories are using hydrogen as a replacement for conventional helium carrier gas in their Gas Chromatography (GC) systems. Besides the price of supply, laboratories have realized that better results can be achieved in the GC process using hydrogen.

International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) – A Case Study

Since 2008, IFF’s research and development laboratory has been using hydrogen as an alternative to helium carrier gas. IFF produces fragrances and flavorings for products ranging from foods to toiletries. Steve Toth, a research investigator at IFF, informed that the switch to hydrogen was not all about finances. The key reason was the ability of hydrogen to accelerate the analysis as is defined by the Van Deemter curve. The use of hydrogen in place of helium carrier gas enabled IFF to shorten the analysis time and achieve the same resolution as with helium.

IFF had three small hydrogen generators to supply combustion gas at a rate of around 2L/h. The lab had 30 GC systems, using different techniques, all of which needed nearly 5L/h of helium to operate. Hence, the lab was seeking a larger hydrogen generator to meet the demand. IFF selected the Proton OnSite’s HOGEN® S Series hydrogen generation system (Figure 1).

Proton OnSite’s HOGEN® S Series hydrogen generation system.

Figure 1. Proton OnSite’s HOGEN® S Series hydrogen generation system.

Toth said that the company initially tested hydrogen as a carrier gas on one of its GC systems with an existing benchtop hydrogen generator and confirmed that the decision would be a no-brainer as hydrogen allows more analysis in less time and supports the specific application processes used at IFF. Hence, the company started to switch all 30 systems over to hydrogen. It took nearly four months for the changeover.

Installation of the new hydrogen generator was done easily as the facility was already plumbed for small hydrogen generators. However, setting each system was time intensive and laborious. Although translation software guides created by Agilent Technologies were useful, the process took time. As different methods were in operation, each method of every GC system needed to be translated from helium to hydrogen.

Nevertheless, the IFF lab was not able to change all its techniques over to hydrogen, said Toth. Hydrogen is not suitable for certain processes, especially those involved in long-chain fatty acids as hydrogenation occurred in the inlets. For such methods, IFF still uses helium as the carrier gas.


Toth informed that IFF’s research lab hasn’t looked back since changing carrier gases. Actually, most of IFF’s other labs at its main R&D facility in Union Beach, NJ, are also now supplying hydrogen as a carrier gas for most of their GC systems. Helium to hydrogen conversion is gaining traction throughout the laboratory marketplace.

This year, Proton OnSite is offering a record number of solutions to labs and has also witnessed a significant increase in nitrogen and zero generator requests. It has been a positive experience and with routine maintenance of the hydrogen generator, the company is able to perform analyses efficiently and cost effectively, concluded Toth.

About Proton OnSite

Proton OnSite is a global leader in hydrogen energy and innovative gas solutions. Since 1996, we have been developing and applying hydrogen technology in creative and practical ways that best meets the diverse requirements of our customers. Our advanced proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis systems coupled with our uncompromising attention to excellence and quality enables us to deliver, install and support gas generation units on every continent.

More recently, we have expanded our product offerings to include hydrogen control systems, nitrogen generators and air generators. We have also expanded our services to include packaged solutions incorporating tanks, compressors and other ancillary equipment. These products and services now allow us to serve a broader commercial set of markets including power plants, semiconductor manufacturers and laboratories.

Proton OnSite is a trusted partner to the U.S. military, aerospace, fueling and renewable energy industries because at Proton, we understand that the current energy market demands leadership, expertise and innovation. We are also at the forefront of the clean energy industry, committed to developing superior energy solutions that provide the most value to our partners throughout the globe.

Because we have continued to grow and develop beyond the expectations of Proton Energy Systems, we have decided to change our name and logo to best address our diversity of markets and reflect the growing array of commercial products and services that we offer beyond hydrogen generation - Proton OnSite is now THE leader in on site gas generation.

Our name has changed but the company behind the name remains the same. Our dedication to quality products and services is unwavering and as such, we invite you to put the same trust in us as you have done for the last 15 years in hydrogen generation for all your other on site gas needs.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Proton OnSite.

For more information on this source, please visit Proton OnSite.


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