An odour sample is generally a complex matrix consisting of numerous molecules (mostly volatile organic compounds, VOCs) chemically different from each other, and which can be perceived by the human nose.
In order to chemically characterize this complex gaseous matrix, gas-chromatography (GC) is commonly used. By this analytical technique, it is possible to obtain the resolution of odour gaseous mixtures in order to qualify and quantify the compounds. However, the quantification is a tricky operation based on the comparison of the sample under examination with purpose-made gas mixtures containing a compound, chosen as a standard, at known concentration. Commonly, these mixtures are obtained from cylinders of compressed gases, the use of which involves problems relating to their management, thermodynamic equilibrium feasibility, considerable economic outlay and not-negligible procurement times.
This paper describes a method, proposed as a versatile and simple alternative to the use of such cylinders, for preparing gaseous calibration standards at known concentration. The method involves the continuous injection of VOC in liquid form, by means of a syringe pump, into a stream of neutral gas, such as air or nitrogen, which acts as diluent gas, controlled by a mass flow meter. Exploiting the volatility of the compounds used, it is possible to generate a continuous gas stream, exiting the system, containing the selected VOC at the desired concentration, which can be directly used as calibration standard.