In principle, you can use almost any solvent you want as long as they do not enter the conversion reactors.
There are of course exceptions (aren't there always?) and acetone is of one them. Acetone is a very reactive compound. Using it you risk it reacting with some of your sample consituents thus adding unwanted carbon (and hydrogen) and thus yielding bogus delta-values. Low boilers like di-ethyl ether are of no use practically, and so are high boilers since they might elute well after your first compounds of interest or, worse, co-elute with a compound of interest; and Sod's Law will make sure of it. SO, basically, you are looking at solvents that are chemically inert (no reactive functional groups) and with boiling point in the range of 35 to 75 C, there or thereabouts.
The other limitation regarding what is a suitable solvent has nothing to do with IRMS but a lot with good gas chromatography. One should use solvents that volatilize easily in the injector, do not react with the sample constituents (solutes) and have a reasonably low boiling point so they condense when hitting the cold-ish column (cold as compared to the injector). This is important as this will ensure you solvent/solute vapour cloud doesn't get smeared across the column resulting in ugly broad peaks (looking like beached whales or yours truly in a supine position) but starts out as a narrow concentrated starting point (similar to what one has to do to get decent results from TLC; no. not tender loving care but Thin Layer Chromotagraphy). GC people call this the solvent effect.
Halogenated solvents such as DCM and CHCl3 are good general purpose solvent for GC but they cannot enter the conversion reactors. Preventing the solvent peak from entering the conversion reactors is pretty obvious anyway as this would exhaust the reactor in next to no time and overload the analyzer. So even for chemically inert solvents such as n-hexane or n-heptane the reactors are still off limits.
Halogenated solvents cannot enter the reactors for another reason. Halogens will kill the the combustion reactor since the metal halides formed (e.g. NiCl2 and CuCl2) are stable beyond 1000 C and cannot be reoxidised. In addition, reactor poisoning reuslts in incomplete sample conversion, which means d13C values will bl%%$y useless due to mass discriminatory effects. In the HT reactor they may be converted either into hydrogen halid gas (e.g. HCl) or halogen gas (Cl2), both of which are highly corrosive and neither of which you therefore want floating about your system.
Bottom line, use the solvent that best (= completely) dissolves your sample. Make sure the solvent is water free and keep the Back-flush valves busy.
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
Aldous Huxley, "Proper Studies", 1927
Professor W Meier-Augenstein, PhD, CChem, FRSC
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From: Stable Isotope Geochemistry [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Walter, Peter (NIH/NIDDK) [E] [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 06 July 2012 18:31
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ISOGEOCHEM] GC-GCCIII-IRMS question
Does anybody know any solvents to avoid using with a Thermo GC-GCCIII-IRMS analysis of either hydrogen or carbon? If so, what problems do they cause?
Peter J. Walter, Ph.D.
Director, Clinical Mass Spectrometry Core
NIH/NIDDK Building 10-9C106
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