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I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed in UHPLC

Team TFS
Team TFS
liquid chromatographyIt seems that the modern world has an obsession for speed, none more so than this British speed fanatic Guy Martin. Everywhere we look everyone wants to go faster, do it quicker. Is it simply we want more power and supremacy or are we being asked as a race to do more for less?


Importance of Controlling Speed and Power

One area where everyone is searching for more speed and power is in sport and this was recently brought home to me by my young son (the younger you are I think the more hungry you are for speed and power, perhaps to compete with those older than you?). He has taken up the sport of cricket. I can now start to imagine people thinking, you are talking about speed and introduce a sport where a match can be played for five days and still result in a draw, where are you going with this?

Well, when he bowls the ball, all he is concerned about it is how fast he bowls it, not where it goes and when he bats it’s all about how hard he can hit it rather than timing and placement. However much you explain that bowling the ball in the right place at any speed is better than fast in the wrong place and that timing the ball while batting will make it go further than trying to hit it as hard as you can, it does not resonate for long, it’s back to speed and power.

That got me thinking, wherever you utilize speed and power you need to be able to control and harness that speed and power if it is to be of any use to you. The best cricketing fast bowlers have learn't that it’s only useful to be really quick if you can control the ball and bowl it in the correct place on the right line and length. The same principle applies to almost everything; there is little advantage to having the most powerful and fastest car if you cannot control it and keep it on the road.

There’s no point finishing the exam first in record time if you get most of the questions wrong as a consequence. The same applies to analytical instruments; having more power and speed sounds attractive, but unless that power is harnessed and utilized correctly then you will never be able to obtain the speed, quality and reproducibility of results you require. I will give the following example from liquid chromatography.


Controlling High Pressure in Liquid Chromatography

Over the past decade, there has been a shift towards increasing pressure in liquid chromatography to what is now commonly referred to as ultra high pressure liquid chromatography or UHPLC. To obtain these high pressures then the subsequent next-generation UHPLC systems (Thermo Scientific Vanquish UHPLC system) have increased in their power and robustness to be able to deliver and withstand these high pressures.

With the increase in pressure generally comes an increase in separation speed, and we should now be thinking that trouble lies ahead unless there is control. This recent article on nevirapine impurity profiling using UHPLC-DAD demonstrates how you can use the power and speed of UHPLC, but in a controlled way to separate and detect nevirapine and its impurities in a significantly shorter time whilst maintaining compliance with ICH requirements.

This article describes the use of one of our UHPLC systems operating at a pressure of 950 bar and a 1.7 µm particle size reverse-phase HPLC column (Thermo Scientific Syncronis C18 HPLC column) to achieve a separation of of nevirapine and all impurities within 1.2 minutes.

The design of the UHPLC system which allowed all components to withstand these pressures and the use of 1.7 µm particles to achieve such impressive speed, coupled with UHPLC system technology to reduce pump pulsation, maintain sample pre-compression and regulate column and mobile phase temperature to give the required control, allowed the holy grail of controlled power and speed and fantastic results! So it would appear, at least in UHPLC, that you can harness power and speed for fast and reproducible results.


 Additional Resources

One of my favorite mobile apps is this HPLC Troubleshooting App on my mobile phone. (You will need to fill out a registration form to download the app but it is well worth it.)


Are you switching from HPLC to UHPLC and having problems with controlling the separation? Which chromatography applications would you like to speed up? I’d like to hear your experiences and comments.