The "Golden Mean" in Flash Chromatography

I have two uncontrollable passions! The one you are aware of is my passion for purification. Clearly. The other one, though, has been the reason why I got myself into trouble over the years a few times and had to learn how to take better care of myself.

Do not think now of anything drastic! My passion involves only a pinch of love, a full table of ingredients and lots of brain-activity in the kitchen! Ok, sometimes a glass of Spanish red wine to bring the mood up is always welcome. To sum it all up – too many calories!

Good food and experimenting with products and spices in the hope of preparing something extraordinarily delicious and tasty takes an important place of my life, just like chemistry.

For your information, this weekend I dared myself to prepare something very special to surprise Hilde. A classic cheesecake with raspberry sauce and with a very gentle scent of mint is her favorite dessert and I must say, I did an amazing job. It was so tasty and tempting that on Sunday evening, it was already gone! We just could not keep ourselves away from the fridge! In addition, my ego jumped to the roof when Hilde told me that I have discovered the “golden mean” between the right amount of ingredients and richness of taste!

What a compliment!

Hilde’s words gave me good “food for thought” about one of my other passions – chromatography.

I have spent close to 26 years specializing professionally in purification and during the years my colleagues and I did our best to always find the perfect balance between efficiency of the chromatography systems we were working with in the lab and cost invested.

Now that I think of it, semi-automated chromatography systems, like for instance the Sepacore® Easy Purification Systems, represent the “golden mean” between productivity and cost in flash chromatography.

To understand why, we need to look at the way a liquid chromatography method can be carried out.

The different ways include liquid chromatography at high pressure, such as HPLC or UPLC, at medium pressure for flash chromatography applications or just at gravity force using open columns.

Flash and gravity column chromatography are both procedures for large sample amounts.

There are, however, some distinct differences between them.

The traditional column chromatography for instance, features a very basic setup with an open column running by gravity. Respectively, a separation can take up to several days and consume liters of solvents. It does sound a little bit time- and resource-consuming, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, the investment cost for this kind of setup is clearly minimal and therefore the technique of gravity column chromatography is still widely used.

Meanwhile, we see an interesting trend in the lab science world.

Up to the present day, the automated flash purification systems have been enjoying a pretty good acceptance among the color-researchers worldwide. An automated flash chromatography system consists of an injection valve, pump, detector & fraction collector. The advanced setup of the system makes it possible to carry out a very convenient and time-efficient way of purification. The high level of automation, however, comes at a high price. Sometimes probably too high for some labs’ budgets.


There was a need on the market for a solution which comprises a satisfying level of automation and could be acquired at an affordable price.

Here, my dear reader, comes the place of the semi-automated flash systems which literally represent the “golden mean” of flash chromatography consisting of only 1 or 2 pumps and a simple control unit. They greatly increase the productivity compared to gravity column chromatography and can be purchased at a reasonable price. The pump system allows the usage of pre-packed Silica flash cartridges, meaning that the resolution of the separation process can be improved, even greatly after equilibration, run times can be reduced and with this, solvent consumption optimized.

Check the example below of how the difference in the two systems’ setup affects run and preparation times and resolution:

semi automated chromatography systems vs open columns

The difference is obvious. The pre-packed cartridges in the semi-automated flash chromatography system allow the user to easily screen for the best conditions of a specific application. In comparison with a gravity column chromatography system, the semi-automated flash system ensures a more efficient separation in a time and cost saving manner.

The minimized exposure of the user to the Silica particles and solvent vapors, which we would not want to be exposed to as they are hazardous anyway, is just another additional safety benefit.

The semi-automated flash systems proved to be the perfect balance between satisfying results of the separation and purification processes and cost and time needed for carrying them out.

For this reason, I see them as the best possible efficiency/cost balance example in flash chromatography.

Would you agree? Why don’t you share your thoughts in the comments!


Thank you for reading and contributing to Bart’s Blog!


Your color-minded friend,

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