Flash column chromatography equilibration speed – how fast can you go?

Equilibrating silica flash chromatography columns is something I always do.  There are chemists who see this as an unnecessary, time-and-solvent-wasting step.  Because getting consistent, predictable results is a priority, I equilibrate to remove the variability that can be caused by heat generated as solvent initially contacts the silica. Consistency is really important when running flash column chromatography because re-runs are time consuming and may put your compound at risk.

In this post, I examine the role of equilibration speed and duration to show its impact, or lack there of, on purification performance.

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How can I perform normal-phase and reversed-phase column chromatography on one flash system?

For chemists, flash chromatography is part of their everyday synthesis workflow. For most syntheses, crude reaction mixtures are purified by normal-phase (aka adsorption) chromatography.  There are times; however, where the crude mixture’s complexity and polarity make normal-phase chromatography very challenging.  For these situations, reversed-phase (aka partition) chromatography may be a preferred option.

But, if you have only one flash system available, can you, should you, and how do you efficiently switch from non-polar, normal-phase solvents to polar, reversed-phase solvents – and back again without issues? In this post I’ll attempt to shed some light on the topic. 

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