How many times can I reuse my flash chromatography column?

Flash chromatography – a purification tool for both organic chemists and natural product researchers.  This tool is essential when you need to remove impurities from your targeted product, or products, in order to get them pure.  To reduce the costs associated with flash chromatography, some chemists try reusing the same column over and over, not always with success.

A question I am frequently asked is “how many times can I reuse my flash column?” Although I have previously addressed this topic, I feel it is worth another look. In this post, I will attempt to address this question by providing a bit more science behind the cartridge reuse question.

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How can I modify my flash chromatography method to separate chemically similar compounds?

The challenges organic, medicinal, and natural product chemists face are many: from designing reactions, to optimizing synthesis, work-up / extraction, and purification / isolation of the desired compound or compounds. Among those issues related to purification / isolation is the common problem of separating compounds with similar chemistry that either co-elute or separate poorly.

In this post I will discuss some tips on how to “resolve” this issue (yes, pun intended).

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Ionizable compound purification using reversed-phase flash column chromatography

With most chromatographic purifications, only two solvents are needed to adequately separate compounds from each other. Unfortunately, there are instances where the separation is either poor or cannot be accomplished with “normal” elution conditions such as those with ionic or very polar organic molecules.

In this post I offer some solutions to this issue.

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How do I purify ionizable organic amine compounds using flash column chromatography?

For most organic reaction mixture purifications the process is fairly straightforward. Use hexane/ethyl acetate or, for polar compounds, DCM/MeOH.  But what do you do if this doesn’t work and your compounds are basic organic amines?

In this post, I re-examine the options available to achieve an acceptable organic amine purification when typical separation methods are insufficient. Continue reading How do I purify ionizable organic amine compounds using flash column chromatography?

What do I do if a 2-solvent gradient will not separate my sample?

Usually, a 2-solvent or binary gradient will separate your desired compound from the by-products and impurities. Sometimes though, you can encounter a mixture in which some compounds co-elute and are not separable with any binary gradient you try.

I encountered this situation recently while trying to purify a lavender essential oil and have dedicated this post to how I solved the problem.  Continue reading What do I do if a 2-solvent gradient will not separate my sample?

Does a longer flash column really provide better purification?

This is an interesting question that I am asked from time to time. There does seem to be two camps in which chemists reside – one believing longer and thinner columns provide better separations and the other preferring shorter and fatter columns to do the same chromatography.

Which is right? That is a question I will try to answer based on my own data. Continue reading Does a longer flash column really provide better purification?

When should I use dry loading instead of liquid loading with flash column chromatography?

Many microwave assisted organic synthesis (MAOS) reactions use polar solvents such as alcohols, DMF, DMSO, because they absorb and transfer microwave energy very efficiently.  However, the downside of using polar, microwave absorbing solvents is that they can interfere with the flash chromatography that follows it injected directly onto a flash cartridge.

In this post, I discuss why dry loading can be advantageous when purifying polar-solvated reaction mixtures.

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When should I add acid to my detector make-up solvent when using mass-directed flash chromatography?

Increasingly, organic and medicinal chemistry labs use mass-directed flash chromatography to isolate synthesized compounds. Mass-directed flash chromatography benefits are many, including collecting only the targeted molecule(s) in the reaction mixture. This approach simplifies compound purification since you know what you have made and it’s associated mass.

However, there are mass detection nuances that can be challenging. One of these is to know when an acid should be added to the mass detector’s make-up solvent to protonate targeted molecules. In this post, I will provide some insight on this topic.

Continue reading When should I add acid to my detector make-up solvent when using mass-directed flash chromatography?

How does mobile phase organic solvent choice impact reversed-phase flash column chromatography?

Organic and medicinal chemists frequently utilize flash chromatography to purify their reaction mixtures. Normal-phase flash chromatography is most often used but may not the best methodology, especially when the compounds are quite polar and/or ionizable.

For these molecules, reversed-phase flash chromatography is preferred but often is not used due to an uncertainty regarding the best solvent choices and the reversed-phase mechanism.  In this post, I will discuss how organic solvent choice in reversed-phase chromatography can influence the chromatographic separation.

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Why do I see more peaks than I expect with flash column chromatography?

Are you observing more chromatographic peaks than you expect compared to TLC or other assessment data?  Well, it could be that your method is separating some isomers or, it could be that there is an actual method issue.

In this post I will discuss what could cause a method issue and suggest some ideas as to how to fix it. Continue reading Why do I see more peaks than I expect with flash column chromatography?