How can I make purification of hard-to-separate compounds greener?

The planet’s population is growing, its resources are dwindling – this is a problem.  On top of that environmental contamination from myriad sources is only compounding the issue of available clean food and water.

As chemists, we contribute to this issue, to some degree, by performing reactions that generate chemical waste in the form of unwanted by-products and excess solvents from work-up and purification. What can we, as chemists, do to help reduce our so-called “carbon footprint”?

In this post, I discuss some ways to improve flash chromatography resource utilization, especially for hard separations.
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5 Steps to successful flash chromatography

The bane of organic synthesis for most chemists is purification rather than synthesis. Synthetic reaction mixtures are rarely devoid of impurities so some type of purification is necessary.  Most often flash chromatography is used but for many chemists, it is less well understood than their chemical reaction and provides some level of anxiety.

In this post, I will summarize the five most important steps to creating a successful flash chromatography method and thus the anxiety associated with it.

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How does solvent choice impact reversed-phase flash chromatography separations?

I have recently posted on how solvent choice influences the separation of hard to resolve compounds using normal-phase flash chromatography. As a chemist with an inquiring mind, I thought I would expand my research beyond normal-phase and see what happens in reversed-phase.

In this post, I share my results. 

Continue reading How does solvent choice impact reversed-phase flash chromatography separations?

How to efficiently scale-up flash column chromatography

For synthesis and medicinal chemists, compounds are typically made only once en route to a final product. Once that compound shows activity toward a particular target, then the synthesis is scaled up meaning that purification too requires scaling. The same is true in natural product research where once a high-value compound is isolated at small scale, there is a need to isolate it at larger scale.

Both of these scenarios can be problematic to scale-up/ process chemists when other, non-chromatographic purification techniques are not successful. When this happens, either a different synthetic route or extraction process is needed or large scale chromatography is employed. In this post, I will explain how flash chromatography can be successfully scaled while minimizing time and solvent consumption. Continue reading How to efficiently scale-up flash column chromatography

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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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?

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?