© 2016 The Author(s). Background: Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography $$(GC \times GC)$$ (G C × G C) provides high-resolution separations across hundreds of compounds in a complex mixture, thus unlocking unprecedented information for intricate quantitative interpretation. We exploit this compound diversity across the $$(GC \times GC)$$ (G C × G C) topography to provide quantitative compound-cognizant interpretation beyond target compound analysis with petroleum forensics as a practical application. We focus on the $$(GC \times GC)$$ (G C × G C) topography of biomarker hydrocarbons, hopanes and steranes, as they are generally recalcitrant to weathering. We introduce peak topography maps (PTM) and topography partitioning techniques that consider a notably broader and more diverse range of target and non-target biomarker compounds compared to traditional approaches that consider approximately 20 biomarker ratios. Specifically, we consider a range of 33-154 target and non-target biomarkers with highest-to-lowest peak ratio within an injection ranging from 4.86 to 19.6 (precise numbers depend on biomarker diversity of individual injections). We also provide a robust quantitative measure for directly determining "match" between samples, without necessitating training data sets. Results: We validate our methods across 34 $$(GC \times GC)$$ (G C × G C) injections from a diverse portfolio of petroleum sources, and provide quantitative comparison of performance against established statistical methods such as principal components analysis (PCA). Our data set includes a wide range of samples collected following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that released approximately 160 million gallons of crude oil from the Macondo well (MW). Samples that were clearly collected following this disaster exhibit statistically significant match $$(99.23 \pm 1.66)\,\%$$ (99.23 ± 1.66) % using PTM-based interpretation against other closely related sources. PTM-based interpretation also provides higher differentiation between closely correlated but distinct sources than obtained using PCA-based statistical comparisons. In addition to results based on this experimental field data, we also provide extentive perturbation analysis of the PTM method over numerical simulations that introduce random variability of peak locations over the $$(GC \times GC)$$ (G C × G C) biomarker ROI image of the MW pre-spill sample (sample $$\#num;1$$ #num; 1 in Additional file 4: Table S1). We compare the robustness of the cross-PTM score against peak location variability in both dimensions and compare the results against PCA analysis over the same set of simulated images. Detailed description of the simulation experiment and discussion of results are provided in Additional file 1: Section S8. Conclusions: We provide a peak-cognizant informational framework for quantitative interpretation of$$(GC \times GC)$$(G C × G C) topography. Proposed topographic analysis enables$$(GC \times GC)$$(G C × G C) forensic interpretation across target petroleum biomarkers, while including the nuances of lesser-known non-target biomarkers clustered around the target peaks. This allows potential discovery of hitherto unknown connections between target and non-target biomarkers.
Ghasemi Damavandi, H., Sen Gupta, A., Nelson, R. K., & Reddy, C. M. (2016). Interpreting comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography using peak topography maps with application to petroleum forensics. Chemistry Central Journal, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13065-016-0211-y