This is the first instalment of "Perspectives in Modern HPLC", a new column that will be published every quarter on this topic. Here, we highlight prominent high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and related products introduced at Pittcon 2013, as well as the previous year. A summary of technical details is provided for these new HPLC systems, modules and chromatographic software products, and major product extensions are also presented. The focus is on innovations and unique features from a user's perspective.
The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) is the world's largest annual conference and exposition on laboratory science. It is organized by The Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and Society for Analytical Chemistry of Pittsburgh and is managed by a committee of volunteers with a small permanent staff. Pittcon 2013 was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, USA, from 17–21 March, the first time in recent memory to be held in the northeastern United States (the last time was 1990 in New York City). Despite a trend of declining participation by exhibitor staff in recent years, Pittcon remains the premier analytical chemistry conference, unmatched in scope or scale by any contenders. This year, Pittcon boasted more than 18,000 attendees from industry, academia and government agencies from more than 90 countries. There were more than 2000 technical sessions, including plenary lectures and invited, contributed and award symposia; workshops; posters and networking sessions; ~90 short courses; and a huge exposition with more than 1000 vendors displaying at ~1900 booths.
Traditionally, Pittcon is the forum for new product introductions and a "must-go-to" conference for laboratory scientists looking for new equipment. However, the many meetings with narrower focuses such as mass spectrometry, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), chiral separations and biotech applications continue to compete for attendees. More importantly, the new information age now offers convenient alternatives for information gathering (such as Google searches, webcasts, virtual meetings and social media). Nevertheless, the opportunities for face-to-face meetings to renew acquaintances and continuing education from symposia or short courses still hold sufficient motivation for many in this annual pilgrimage.Overview and Megatrends in Modern HPLC
In my opinion, the transformation from HPLC to ultrahigh-pressure liquid chromatography (UHPLC) is essentially complete this year. The revolution (or evolution) started with the proof-of-concepts research by Professor James Jorgenson in 1997 (1), followed by the first commercial UHPLC instrument (Waters Acquity UPLC) in 2004 (2). UHPLC is becoming the standard HPLC platform as all major manufacturers have some type of UHPLC system in their product line (3–5) with pressure limits ranging from 15,000 to 19,000 psi (1000–1250 bar). Acceptance by users is pervasive, including the very conservative quality control segment. The dissenting voices of sceptics have disappeared. In a few years, with universal adoption of this new technology, the term "UHPLC" may simply revert back to HPLC. It is noteworthy that Professor Jorgenson predicted faster and higher-resolution HPLC in small-internal-diameter columns packed with very small particles with further development of equipment with higher pressure capability (that is, 50,000 psi) (6):
Moving to still higher pressures (50,000 psi) will enable the use of smaller particles and/or longer columns, and yield faster and better separations. This will almost certainly require the use of sub-mm bore (capillary) columns due to issues with heat generation and dissipation. This won't be easy, but the separation potential in terms of high speed with high resolution is enticing.