From Cylinder to Generator. Why should I make the switch?

Mass Spectrometry continues to become more accessible and critical within a variety of fields, from drug discovery (metabolomics and proteomics being key areas) to food science! For accurate analysis of a sample, thorough separation must be achieved through either Liquid Chromatography (LC) or Gas Chromatography (GC). Both methods require a reliable supply of highly purified gas (Hydrogen, Helium and Nitrogen as examples) to function, and the specific gas is usually decided upon through balancing a variety of factors.

A specific example would be Hydrogen, which not only can be employed as the carrier gas in GC but is used as the fuel for flame ionisation detection (FID). Although in a relatively small laboratory setup (one single instrument) an interchangeable hydrogen cylinder is usually more than enough to function, larger setups often run into issues when using gas cylinders!

Why is this the case? Let’s explore a few reasons why Gas Generators can be superior to their Cylinder counterparts…


Especially when running setups of multiple GC-MS systems, use of cylinder gas requires employment of multiple bundled tanks. Not only does this require automatic switching mechanisms, but it increases the risk of a gas leak (especially considering that these tanks are often kept outside the laboratory setting). By having several high-pressure hydrogen tanks bundled together, there is both a potential for explosion and, dependant on the room size, a risk of rapid displacement of oxygen potentially leading to asphyxiation.


The cost of a 100L hydrogen cylinder varies (manufacturer and quality), but can very easily set you back £200 apiece. With regular usage a GC-MS can get through the full supply in less than two weeks. Without factoring in delivery costs, removal of old cylinders and equipment rental, you could still be looking at between £6000 and £7000 in Hydrogen cost alone!

A generator provides practically unlimited high-grade gas and often costs between £8000-£15000, allowing for it to pay for itself potentially within a year, but certainly within a few!


The gas quality of both generators and cylinders of course varies dependant on their manufacturer and of course the purity required for analysis is dependent on technique being applied. GC required a very high purity for accurate analysis, and with the addition of platinum catalyst in a water electrolysis-based Gas Generator the purity of H2 can surpass 99.999%, the baseline for the majority of GC-MS applications.

You also have the benefit of not having to regularly change the Gas Cylinders (both an annoying and potentially dangerous process) frequently. Only light maintenance is required to get the most out of your generator!

CMC Instruments

We at Providion are proud to be the UK & Ireland distributor of high-quality gas generators manufactured by CMC Instruments.  We offer a full range of gas generators for nitrogen (both membrane and PSA technology), hydrogen, zero air, purge gas and TOC gas.

Not only are they flexible in terms of fitting in with your current setup and highly customisable, but they are also designed to maximise safety and efficiency.

If you’re interested in making the switch from Cylinder to Generator, or are in the market for a Gas Generator, then you can learn more about CMC Instruments and their quality offering by visiting our website. We’re also more than happy to answer questions or discuss your requirements over the phone; just call us on 0800 030 6896.

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