Two essential aids for proper column maintenance

If the chromatography unit is the brain behind your separation, then the accompanying columns and cartridges are the heart. And your purification is certainly doomed if there is a heart failure in the system. Proper column maintenance is crucial for performing successful chromatography and this is why I have chosen to dedicate a whole blog post on the topic. Read on to gain a few useful tips and find out how two specific features can enable hassle-free column care.


Last weekend, we opened the spring season by putting together our patio furniture. Our nice terrace brought me back to my student years. We had a little garden back then and together with my roommates we bought some chairs and a table for outside use. None of us cared for the furniture and we left it out completely uncovered, no matter the weather. When spring came around, the paint on the table had completely cracked, the chairs had rusted and their cushioned seats were so moldy, we had to toss them.

I must admit, this experience taught me a lesson that I better take care of my stuff if I want to avoid wasting money on buying replacement items.

Well, laboratory equipment is no different. Look at chromatography and its columns and cartridges. By taking proper care of your columns, you can easily extend their lifetimes, save precious budget and protect the environment from needless waste. Below I offer a few simple tips on column maintenance that you could effortlessly incorporate in your workflows.

Firstly, users handling columns during set-up and operation should carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Importantly, chromatographers should to ensure that the

working pressure of the column never exceeds the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer.

A great aid to support use of columns below their maximum pressure is radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. Columns and cartridges with an RFID tag can be set up to adhere to the maximal pressure settings, thereby reducing the risk of cartridge cracking. RFID technology offers additional benefits for setting up a foolproof purification. The RFID tags enable automatic digital transfer of settings such as column name, default flow rate and equilibration time. The automatic set-up helps eliminate the risk of performing separations with the wrong settings. The sample is then better protected and there is a smaller chance that the procedure would fail and need to be repeated.

Another way users can extend the lifetime of their preparative HPLC columns is to use guard columns or pre-columns for glass columns. These accessories help protect the column from contamination from:

  • Insoluble particles
  • Non-eluting compounds from the sample
  • Debris from worn pump seals
  • Debris from injector rotor sales
  • Unfiltered mobile phases

Use of guard columns are a great investment for efficient column maintenance that helps extend column lifetime. Chromatographers benefit by saving money and minimizing the environmental impact of chromatography as new columns are purchased less frequently.

I’ve discussed the environmental impact of chromatography in more detail in a previous blog post. You can also download a concise booklet with tips on how to minimize any adverse effects of chromatography here.

Meanwhile, let’s keep our fingers crossed for more wonderful sunny days ahead. In fact, I was already in the spring mood two weeks ago. Read how drying laundry inspired my thinking about shell drying during lyophilization in my previous blog post. And keep visiting the blog to see if I can keep the spring weather momentum going by thawing more freeze-drying secrets.

Till next time,

The Signature of Bart Denoulet at Bart's Blog