High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) is a technique used to analyze samples in a variety of industries, from biological to environmental to industrial and beyond—even throughout the food, drink, and pharmaceutical industries.
To master HPLC, you must learn to use chemical techniques to study organic and inorganic compounds in order to analyze their chemical properties. Specialized training can teach you safe and effective ways to identify, separate, quantify, and ultimately purify a wide variety of chemical compounds, regardless of their volatility or stability. But with the risk of impurities ever present, it’s important to ensure contaminants don’t sabotage your future lab results.
If you are planning to enroll in HPLC courses, or you’ve already started your program, read on for the five most common HPLC contaminations to avoid.
1. HPLC Training 101: Do Not Overload Samples
When it comes to the precise science of HPLC, more isn’t always better. Sample overloading can cause disastrous contamination effects in today’s HPLC laboratories.
Once you start your program, you will learn to follow and understand precise sample concentration rules. If you inject too high a concentration of sample, it can bleed out into the equipment and contaminate the next run of testing. This is the most common contamination cause in HPLC.
2. Damaged Vacuum Degassers Compromise HPLC Courses
HPLC training teaches you to effectively perform ID, assay, and impurity testing, along with how to operate modern HPLC equipment. For those who don’t learn how to properly maintain the equipment, contamination and impurities can frequently occur.
One important maintenance practice regarding HPLC is keeping vacuum degassers clear. These are the tools that remove the small bubbles that a fluid may produce or entrap, in order for gas to be released from the liquid.
The plastic used within them is broadly compatible with most chemicals, but there are some occasions wherein a chromatography sample reacts with the tubing in the vacuum degasser, causing it to swell, shrink, or dissolve. Thorough cleaning helps HPLC pros avoid letting these flaws contaminate their work.
3. Never Neglect Your Wash Vials
Not all HPLC tools necessitate a wash vial, but complex new HPLC additions like auto-injectors and injector pumps often do. They are not part of the main flow path, and so benefit from a separate wash vial as they are not continuously cleaned.
Giving these tools extra care by using sparkling-clean wash vials and a solution made to dissolve any remaining material which might still be in the system will help you avoid contamination.
4. Beware of Sticky Substances on Needles and Septa
With regular cleaning, a chromatographer’s needles can be entirely flushed out and sterilized after each use. But sometimes, sticky liquids, or reactions that make compounds sticky, can result in microscopic deposits being left inside the syringe system.
This problem can be magnified if the needle’s sticky leftovers adhere to the septa they puncture. Septa are the penetrable vial closures used on both pipettes and screw-top vials. If sticky substances transfer between needles and septa, contamination is guaranteed.
5. Mistakes Due to Inadequate HPLC Training
Graduates of HPLC courses know that proper training is the key to success. You cannot break into the rewarding and lucrative field of chromatography without developing specialized, expert skills from an accredited learning institution.
Proper operator training greatly reduces the chances of contamination in the HPLC lab, though it is often the most overlooked reason for contamination problems. Depending on your skillset, troubleshooting for contamination solutions in an HPLC system can take minutes to months to diagnose and solve.
With hands-on experience and training, you can speed the process along—and learn how to maintain a lab environment in which contamination is a rare occurrence.