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A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Elements are divided into metals, metalloids, and non-metals. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen (non-metals), silicon, arsenic (metalloids), aluminium, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead (metals).
The lightest chemical elements, including hydrogen, helium (and smaller amounts of lithium, beryllium and boron), are thought to have been produced by various cosmic processes during the Big Bang and cosmic-ray spallation. Production of heavier elements, from carbon to the very heaviest elements, proceeded by stellar nucleosynthesis, and these were made available for later solar system and planetary formation by planetary nebulae and supernovae, which blast these elements into space. The high abundance of oxygen, silicon, and iron on Earth reflects their common production in such stars, after the lighter gaseous elements and their compounds have been subtracted. While most elements are generally viewed as stable, a small amount of natural transformation of one element to another also occurs at the present time through decay of radioactive elements as well as other natural nuclear processes.
In chemistry, a chemical substance is a form of matter that has constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. It cannot be separated into components by physical separation methods, i.e. without breaking chemical bonds. It can be solid, liquid, gas, or plasma.
Chemical substances are often called 'pure' to set them apart from mixtures. A common example of a chemical substance is pure water; it has the same properties and the same ratio of hydrogen to oxygen whether it is isolated from a river or made in a laboratory. Other chemical substances commonly encountered in pure form are diamond (carbon), gold, table salt (sodium chloride) and refined sugar (sucrose). However, simple or seemingly pure substances found in nature can in fact be mixtures of chemical substances. For example, tap water may contain small amounts of dissolved sodium chloride and compounds containing iron, calcium and many other chemical substances.
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together in a defined spatial arrangement by chemical bonds. Chemical compounds can be molecular compounds held together by covalent bonds, salts held together by ionic bonds, intermetallic compounds held together by metallic bonds, or complexes held together by coordinate covalent bonds. Pure chemical elements are not considered chemical compounds, even if they consist of molecules that contain only multiple atoms of a single element (such as H2, S8, etc.), which are called diatomic molecules or polyatomic molecules.
Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry
A chemical nomenclature is a set of rules to generate systematic names for chemical compounds. The nomenclature used most frequently worldwide is the one created and developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
The IUPAC's rules for naming organic and inorganic compounds are contained in two publications, known as the Blue Book and the Red Book, respectively. A third publication, known as the Green Book, describes the recommendations for the use of symbols for physical quantities (in association with the IUPAP), while a fourth, the Gold Book, contains the definitions of a large number of technical terms used in chemistry. Similar compendia exist for biochemistry (the White Book, in association with the IUBMB), analytical chemistry (the Orange Book), macromolecular chemistry (the Purple Book) and clinical chemistry (the Silver Book). These "color books" are supplemented by shorter recommendations for specific circumstances that are published from time to time in the journal Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is an analytical method that combines the features of gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances within a test sample. Applications of GC-MS include drug detection, fire investigation, environmental analysis, explosives investigation, and identification of unknown samples. GC-MS can also be used in airport security to detect substances in luggage or on human beings. Additionally, it can identify trace elements in materials that were previously thought to have disintegrated beyond identification.
GC-MS has been widely heralded as a "gold standard" for forensic substance identification because it is used to perform a specific test. A specific test positively identifies the actual presence of a particular substance in a given sample. A non-specific test merely indicates that a substance falls into a category of substances. Although a non-specific test could statistically suggest the identity of the substance, this could lead to false positive identification.