Have you ever had an HPLC system unexpectedly break down in the middle of a run, only to realize the failure happened because of a bad part or missed maintenance?
A liquid chromatography system is like a home appliance in that, regular maintenance, cleaning and service can help your HPLC run trouble-free at maximum performance.
You wouldn't expect your refrigerator to last long with dirty coils and bad compressor seals. Likewise, you cannot expect an instrument to deliver precise and reliable analytical data without proper care.
Good lab practice is a foundational pillar in every well-run lab, so do some due diligence and take a little time before your holiday hiatus to prepare for the coming year.
Here are seven easy ways — plus a bonus Dr. Lincoln pro tip — to set your LC lab up for continued success in 2022.
Inspect pumps: A well-maintained pump is at the heart of a reproducible HPLC or UHPLC separation. Check for any buffer precipitation, the leak sensor, rear seal wash tubing, and schedule the next maintenance service.
Clean eluent bottles and replace frits: Organic solvents and acids are notoriously volatile and eat away at plastics over time. Starting with clean eluent bottles and fresh frits is a simple yet effective way to keep your eluents pure, and helps minimize the absorption of water vapor from the air. Yes, even hydrocarbon solvents absorb water vapor.
Check tubing and fittings: Tubing and fittings allow the mobile phase and sample mixture to flow continuously at high pressure. Leaks in the tubing disrupt system pressure and are detrimental to a successful separation, while worn fittings distort chromatographic peaks.
Wash and store columns appropriately: Cleaning your HPLC and UHPLC columns should be part of any method. The solvents you use will depend on the application, so check the column user manual for guidance. Best practice is to create a logbook of columns and consider switching to an electronic record using column ID tags. If you are not going to run your HPLC system for an extended period, you should run isopropyl alcohol through the system before taking off for the holidays. When you get back, you'll need to flush the system and re-purge your new solvents.
Run a system suitability test: Always ensure your instrument is functioning correctly after any maintenance by executing a system suitability test (SST). If you do not have a defined SST procedure, you need to develop one ASAP. Advanced chromatography software like the Thermo Scientific™ Chromeleon™ CDS can help you develop an automatic SST with simplicity.
Discard expired chemicals: Light-sensitive and redox-active chemicals, compounds packaged under inert gas, and liquid buffers have an expiration date. Check the expiration date on your entire chemical inventory and properly dispose of all the expired ones.
Dr. Lincoln pro tip: Write the date and your initials on all new chemicals when you open them.
Good lab practice always saves you time and money
If your lab already practices extreme routine maintenance, great! You should keep this list handy for any last-minute checks and share with any new colleagues as a helpful guide for the future.
If your lab is behind on tidiness and needs help getting back on track, you should immediately execute this list of seven easy steps. The suggestions are simple, but go a long way toward preparing your LC system for the year ahead.
Preventing common instrument mishaps is the best defense against downtime, missing a deadline, and losing revenue.
Do you have any other suggestions for fellow readers? Share your favorite lab cleaning ritual below.