The Measurement of Carbon Monoxide in Auto Exhaust by Gas Chromatography,

J. Chem. Ed., 72, 364-366, 1995.


Dan Jaffe and Scott Herndon




In this paper we report on a simple procedure to measure Carbon Monoxide in auto exhaust using a GC with a thermal conductivity detector.  For the most part, materials used in this experiment are available in most undergraduate chemistry labs.  Samples are obtained directly from the vehicle tail-pipe by collecting into a zipper-type plastic bag and analyzed on the GC, equipped with 5Ǻ molecular sieve column.  A typical analysis time is 7 minutes for each sample.  The CO peak is quantified by injecting a commercial standard of CO into the GC, under the same conditions.  The standard is the only item not available in most undergraduate labs and can be purchased for about $75.  Using this method, we have developed a number of experiments that are interesting and relevant to the environment.  One example is to measure the CO mixing ratios from a vehicle as it warms up on a cold day.  When a vehicle is started from a “cold-start”, the CO mixing ratios are extremely high.