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These versatile systems have evolved significantly and are essential in numerous analytical workflows.
The foundation of liquid chromatography (LC) lies in separating compounds within a sample based on their interactions with the mobile phase (solvent) and the stationary phase (chromatographic packing material). Higher pressures were adopted using smaller particles, leading to the development of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
In an HPLC system, a pump and mobile phase work together to move the sample mixture (analyte) through the column at high pressure. Compounds interact with the mobile and stationary phases, separating based on affinity or polarity. The retention time of each compound depends on its interactions.
HPLC’s remarkable sensitivity allows it to identify trace compounds at parts per trillion (ppt), making it indispensable in pharmaceuticals, environmental monitoring, forensics, and the chemical industry.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the world of liquid chromatography systems. In this blog post we’ll cover:
By the end of this blog post, you’ll gain valuable insights into liquid chromatography systems, allowing you to make informed decisions about the equipment you use and achieve exceptional results in your analytical endeavors, whether you’re an experienced chromatographer or a newcomer.
Learn about the major components that make up a liquid chromatography system. Discover the different types of systems used in laboratory research and their uses. Get an idea of what it costs to acquire an LC system.
Liquid chromatography pumps play a crucial role in the chromatographic process, as their pressure capacity and performance are key to achieving consistent and reproducible flow rates. Pressure levels can reach as high as 60 MPa (6000 lbf/in2), equivalent to about 600 atmospheres, providing the necessary force for efficient separations.
In HPLC, the pump is often referred to as a solvent delivery system, precisely controlling the flow of the mobile phase and eluent to the chromatographic column. HPLC pumps are known for delivering pulseless flows even against substantial backpressure, ensuring reproducible flow rates, regardless of changes in backpressure. These pumps are available in standalone models that are easy to operate and capable of generating gradient elutions—a valuable feature for various applications beyond HPLC.
Critical components of an HPLC pump include the piston, driver, pump head, high-pressure pump unit, check valve, proportioning valve, mixer, pulse damper, and degasser. These components work together to ensure efficient and reliable performance during chromatographic analysis.
A diverse range of available pumps in modern liquid chromatography systems include:
Choosing the most suitable pump and system for your laboratory will depend on several factors, with flow rate requirements being of utmost importance. Careful evaluation of these factors will enable researchers to make informed decisions and select the optimal pump to meet their analytical needs.
The injector, a critical component in liquid chromatography systems, facilitates the introduction of the liquid sample, or analyte, into the chromatographic flow. Depending on the laboratory's requirements, the injector can be a single injection setup or an advanced automated injection system.
For high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) systems, it is essential that the injector allows injection of the liquid sample within the range of 0.1-100 mL with high reproducibility, even under high pressure conditions.
Modern HPLC systems offer various sample injectors, such as injection valves, sample pumps, and autosamplers, each with specific advantages. When selecting the ideal sample injector for a laboratory, precision, accuracy, and carryover are critical factors to consider. Precision ensures that the injected sample volume is consistent and reproducible, while accuracy guarantees the correct delivery of the desired sample volume. Minimizing carryover is essential to prevent contamination between injections, particularly in high-throughput applications.
While manual injection valves serve as a cost-effective option for introducing samples, automated injection methods are highly recommended when dealing with large sample volumes or requiring high throughput.
Autosamplers, a type of automated injection system, significantly enhance productivity by enabling the sequential analysis of multiple samples without manual intervention. This automation streamlines the analytical workflow, increasing sample throughput and improving overall efficiency in the laboratory.
Deciding on the most suitable HPLC column for a separation relies on understanding the physical properties of the analyte to be separated. These properties encompass factors such as hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity, intermolecular forces (particularly dipole-dipole interactions), intramolecular forces (ionic interactions), and size.
HPLC column separations leverage these specific differences in molecular properties to achieve effective separations. The structure and chemistry of the HPLC column packing, known as the stationary phase, significantly influence the elution profile of the analytes.
HPLC columns come in various sizes, ranging from capillary to process scale. The internal diameter and volume of the column determine both the sample loading capacity and the sensitivity of the separation. Smaller internal diameters yield enhanced separation and detection sensitivity, especially when using gradient elution. For instance, capillary HPLC with small capillaries facilitates taller chromatographic peaks, leading to better detection limits for concentration-sensitive detectors like mass spectrometry.
While there is often a trade-off between sensitivity and the sample volume loaded onto a column, careful selection of the column size ensures optimal performance for specific analytical separations.
Modern HPLC columns are typically made of borosilicate glass, acrylic glass, or stainless steel, offering improved durability and chemical compatibility. These columns are further categorized based on their separation mechanisms, resulting in various types:
Each column type employs a different chromatography packing material to achieve distinct separation characteristics.
For applications requiring precise control of column temperature, column thermostats are commonly integrated into the LC system. Maintaining a consistent column temperature improves the reproducibility of chromatograms, which is especially beneficial in organic-based chromatography. Notably, column heating is often used for organic separations, while separating proteins typically involves column cooling.
Selecting the most appropriate HPLC column depends on a comprehensive understanding of the analyte's physical properties and the desired separation characteristics. By choosing the right column type and size, researchers can achieve efficient and reliable chromatographic separations tailored to their specific analytical needs.
The stationary phase is central in separating sample components during the chromatographic process. It is a solid or liquid material that remains fixed inside the chromatography column throughout the analysis.
The primary function of the stationary phase is to provide a surface with which the sample components can interact selectively. As the mobile phase (the solvent or mixture of solvents) moves through the column, it carries the sample. When the sample encounters the stationary phase, the different analytes within the sample interact with the stationary phase based on their chemical properties.
The interaction between the stationary phase and the sample components is crucial for separation. Depending on the nature of the stationary phase, certain sample components will adhere more strongly to it, causing them to move more slowly through the column. In contrast, others will have weaker interactions and will elute faster. This differential retention results in separating the sample components as they elute at different times, a phenomenon known as chromatographic peaks.
Various types of stationary phases are available for liquid chromatography, and their selection depends on the analytes being analyzed and the separation requirements. Some common types of stationary phases include:
The choice of the stationary phase depends on the properties of the sample and the specific chromatographic method being used. Selecting the appropriate stationary phase is essential to achieving efficient separation and obtaining accurate and reliable results in liquid chromatography.
LC system detectors play a crucial role in identifying and monitoring components eluted from the chromatography column. These detectors generate electronic signals corresponding to specific compounds they are designed to respond to. There are various types of detectors, each employing different detection methods and offering varying results for purity screening:
Each detector type has its unique strengths, and selection depends on the specific analytical requirements and nature of the analytes being analyzed. By employing the appropriate detector, researchers can obtain accurate and valuable data during liquid chromatography analyses.
Chromatography data systems (CDS) are essential components in liquid chromatography equipment, including HPLC, GC, and IC analyses. These systems play a pivotal role in instrument control, data processing, archiving, and report generation, ensuring efficient and accurate handling of chromatographic data.
There are three primary setups for utilizing data acquisition systems in chromatography:
The data acquisition system, supported by its specialized software, seamlessly handles instrument control, data acquisition, and analysis, ensuring reliable and accurate results for chromatographic analyses.
By employing the most suitable configuration based on the laboratory's requirements, researchers can maximize the capabilities of their liquid chromatography equipment and streamline their data management processes.
Fraction collectors automate the collection of separated compounds from the chromatographic column.
As the sample mixture passes through the column and is separated into its components, the fraction collector collects and stores each component in separate containers or test tubes based on specific criteria, such as elution time or detector signals. The automation ensures accuracy, consistency, and reproducibility in sample collection.
Fraction collectors also significantly increase the efficiency of liquid chromatography experiments, especially when dealing with complex mixtures. They allow researchers to conveniently collect and analyze individual fractions, saving time and effort.
By promptly collecting each fraction, this component prevents the potential degradation or loss of analytes, especially when dealing with sensitive or labile compounds. Collecting individual fractions simplifies the analysis of each component, enabling more detailed investigations and identification of target compounds.
The need for fraction collectors in liquid chromatography systems depends on the specific application and experimental requirements. In some cases, fraction collectors are essential, mainly when dealing with:
However, in specific applications where simple detection and identification of analytes are sufficient, fraction collectors may be optional. Researchers may choose to manually collect and analyze the fractions for routine analyses or when the cost is a significant factor.
Mobile phase reservoirs are essential components in a liquid chromatography system responsible for holding and delivering the mobile phase, the solvent or mixture of solvents used to transport the sample through the chromatographic column.
These reservoirs are typically constructed from high-quality materials chemically compatible with the mobile phase and prevent any interactions or contamination with the sample.
In a typical liquid chromatography setup, there are two mobile phase reservoirs—one for the aqueous mobile phase and the other for the organic mobile phase, when gradient elution is employed. The selection of appropriate mobile phase solvents and their proportions is crucial for achieving efficient separation of analytes in the sample.
Mobile phase reservoirs have solvent level sensors to monitor and maintain a consistent mobile phase level throughout the chromatographic run. This ensures a continuous and reproducible mobile phase flow to the chromatographic system.
Additionally, the reservoirs may have built-in degassing mechanisms to remove dissolved gases from the solvents, enhancing system stability and reducing the risk of bubble formation, which could adversely affect chromatographic performance.
Tubing and connectors are vital components that facilitate the flow of the mobile phase and the sample through the liquid chromatography system. These tubes are carefully selected to be inert and chemically compatible with the mobile phase and the sample to avoid unwanted interactions or analyte adsorption during the chromatographic process.
High-quality tubing connects various parts of the chromatography system, such as the mobile phase reservoirs, the pump, the injector, and the detector. Using the appropriate tubing material and dimensions is crucial to minimize extra-column band broadening and ensure efficient chromatographic separation.
Connectors are critical in ensuring leak-free connections between different system parts, maintaining a consistent and uninterrupted flow of the mobile phase and the sample. They are designed to withstand the high pressures typically encountered in high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and other techniques.
Liquid chromatography equipment prices can vary widely depending on the complexity and features of the system. However, in general, basic HPLC setups with a simple detector, injector, and pump are relatively affordable compared to more advanced configurations. Opting for HPLC over UHPLC may also lead to cost savings.
However, as you add additional detection modules, include an autosampler, or upgrade to a high-pressure pump, the overall cost of the system will increase significantly.
The general price range for liquid chromatography equipment can start from around $10,000 to $30,000. More advanced liquid chromatography systems with additional detection modules, autosamplers, and high-pressure pumps can range from $40,000 to $100,000 or more.
Specialized or cutting-edge systems with advanced features and technologies may exceed several hundred thousand dollars. For example, UHPLC systems tend to be more expensive compared to traditional HPLC systems due to the higher pressures and improved performance they offer.
Here’s a breakdown of price by equipment type:
It's essential to consider the specific analytical needs and budget constraints when selecting liquid chromatography equipment. Investing in the right system tailored to the laboratory's requirements will ensure accurate and efficient analyses and maximize the value of the equipment.
Liquid chromatography systems are powerful analytical tools used in various scientific and industrial applications to separate, identify, and quantify compounds. There are several types of systems available, all of which rely on similar components to generate accurate results. However, the high costs of purchasing this equipment can pose a challenge for many laboratories.
While purchasing a new or refurbished liquid chromatography system outright may not be feasible within your budget, there is an excellent alternative—leasing the equipment at an affordable rate. At Excedr, we offer cost-effective lease options that can be tailored to your laboratory's needs, providing a flexible solution without the burden of large upfront expenses.
Leasing an HPLC system through Excedr allows you to significantly reduce upfront costs and manage your laboratory's cash flow more efficiently. With affordable, predictable lease payments, you can access the cutting-edge equipment your research requires without straining your financial resources.
Whether you need a liquid chromatography, gas chromatography, or thin-layer chromatography system, our lease program is designed to accommodate your specific requirements. Experience the benefits of top-quality chromatography instruments without compromising your budget.
Our lease agreements are founder-friendly and flexible, helping you preserve working capital, strengthen the cash flow of your business, and keep business credit lines open for expansions, staffing, and other crucial operational expenses and business development opportunities.
Leases range from 2 to 5 years. Length will depend on several factors, including how long you want to use the equipment, equipment type, and your company’s financial position. These are standard factors leasing companies consider and help us tailor a lease agreement to fit your needs.
We don’t carry an inventory. This means you’re not limited to a specific set of manufacturers. Instead, you can pick the equipment that aligns with your business goals and preferences. We’ll work with the manufacturer of your choice to get the equipment in your facility as quickly as possible.
Bundle preventive maintenance and repair coverage with your lease agreement. You can spread those payments over time. Easily maintain your equipment, minimize the chances something will break down, repair instrumentation quickly, and simplify your payment processes.
At the end of your lease, you have multiple options. You can either renew the lease at a significantly lower price, purchase the machine outright based on the fair market value of the original pricing, or call it a day and we’ll come the pick up the equipment for you free of charge.
Our leases do not include loan-like terms, which can be restrictive or harmful in certain situations. We do not require debt covenants, IP pledges, collateral, or equity participation. Our goal is to maximize your flexibility. When you lease with us, you’re collaborating with a true business partner.
Our underwriting is done in-house. You can expect quicker turnaround, allowing you respond to your equipment needs as they arise. We require less documentation than traditional lenders and financiers and can get the equipment you need in operation more quickly.