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Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography in Forensic Science

Forensic Science

  1. Robert D. Blackledge

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a1121

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Blackledge, R. D. 2006. Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography in Forensic Science. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. Navy Criminal Investigative Service, Regional Forensic Laboratory, San Diego, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Pyrolysis (as the term is used by analytical chemists) is the breakdown of organic molecules by the application of heat in the absence of oxygen. Because oxygen is absent, combustion (which would produce primarily carbon dioxide and water vapor) does not occur, and the pyrolysis products are characteristic of their parent molecules. Pyrolysis is most often applied to characterize polymeric materials or other samples that cannot normally be vaporized without undergoing decomposition. In pyrolysis gas chromatography (PY/GC) the carrier gas (usually helium or nitrogen) sweeps the pyrolysis products onto a gas chromatography (GC) column.