A micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) based pre-concentrator filled with a standard Tenax TA adsorbent as well as with a synthetic receptor designed to adsorb 3-hydroxy-3-methylhexanoic acid (3H3MHA), a particular metabolite only available from human beings, was adapted to a custom made ion mobility spectrometer with gas-chromatographic pre-separation (GC-IMS). This combination was compared to a traditional sample loop GC-IMS. The application of a pre-concentrator is highly beneficial for the GC-IMS as analysing technique. By variation of the adsorbed sample volume, the system can be adapted to changing sample concentration ranges easily, thus increasing sensitivity significantly. Detection limits of few hundred ppqV could be obtained in this work for eucalyptol and 3 human metabolites (benzaldehyde, 2-ethyl-1-hexanol and decanal) as exemplary analytes. Moreover, the appropriate choice of selective pre-concentration phases in the pre-concentrator enables an adaptation of sampling to the composition of the mixture. Relevant compounds in very low concentrations can be amplified by using specially designed cavitands while interfering substances could be suppressed. This was successfully demonstrated by detecting 3H3MHA, a compound exclusively available in human sweat, which can be used to locate trapped or hidden individuals.
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