Separation Science: Past, Present, and Future

Laura Bush

Laura Bush is a former managing editor of Pharmaceutical Technology. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of BioPharm International, a sister publication of Pharmaceutical Technology. 485 Route One South, Building F, First Floor, Iselin, NJ 08830, lbush@advanstar.com, tel. 732.346.3020

LCGC North America

LCGC North America, LCGC North America-08-01-2012, Volume 30, Issue 8
Pages: 620

Milestone events, like LCGC's celebration of 30 years of covering separation science, always prompt reflection on the past and consideration of what the future might hold. Thus, for this 30th anniversary issue, we turned to the experts in five key areas of our coverage: sample preparation, gas chromatography (GC) columns, GC instrumentation, liquid chromatography (LC) columns, and LC instrumentation. Now, in the special group of five articles in this issue, we bring you their perspectives on the state of the art: what the most important recent advances have been, where things stand today, and where the field is likely to go next.

Milestone events, like LCGC's celebration of 30 years of covering separation science, always prompt reflection on the past and consideration of what the future might hold. Thus, for this 30th anniversary issue, we turned to the experts in five key areas of our coverage: sample preparation, gas chromatography (GC) columns, GC instrumentation, liquid chromatography (LC) columns, and LC instrumentation. Now, in the special group of five articles in this issue, we bring you their perspectives on the state of the art: what the most important recent advances have been, where things stand today, and where the field is likely to go next.

In GC, the developments have been mostly incremental, with more concern about stagnation in systems and training than about keeping up with new developments. A few aspects of GC are piquing interest, however, such as ionic liquids, multidimensional GC, and fast GC.

Sample preparation, of course, has always been the Achilles' heel of separation science — tedious, challenging, and generally requiring case-by-case problem solving. But there is some dynamism there, too, in terms of improved automation, methodologies in kit form, like QuEChERS, and even opportunities for reducing sample preparation.

In LC, however, there have been exciting developments. In recent decades, the single biggest advance in LC was clearly ultrahigh-pressure liquid chromatography (UHPLC), which has enabled separations at much faster speeds and, more importantly, with higher sensitivity. But pushing any extreme always brings challenges. In the case of UHPLC, the high pressures involved have reduced instrument reliability, reduced control over temperature, and increased costs. Meanwhile, the continued development of superficially porous particles (SPPs) is already making significant inroads into what seemed, at one point, like an inevitable path to working in ultrahigh pressures as a standard practice. By enabling separations with very good resolution and sensitivity at more moderate pressures, SPPs seem poised to bring us back to operating environments that were familiar years ago.

Of course, the other most significant change in separation science, including sample preparation, is not overtly even on the list of the five topics we have covered: mass spectrometry (MS) detection, with its high sensitivity. Today's LC–MS systems are effective and reliable, and have become a standard instrument for routine use in many laboratories. MS is now such an essential part of separations that one member of our editorial advisory board told me that LCGC should change its name to LCGCMS! But whether in our name or not, MS indeed has a constant presence in LCGC's regular monthly print issues, our quarterly supplement series Current Trends in Mass Spectrometry, and everything we publish on-line. Indeed, our discussions with our expert panels all included questions about how MS detection has affected recent developments, and where it, and other detection methods, are likely to take us in the future.

So, for an in-depth assessment of the current state of separation science, and to hear the experts' predictions of where the field is headed, check out our special 30th anniversary coverage, starting on page 648. And perhaps in five or ten years, you can check to see if our experts' forecasts were accurate.

Laura Bush

Editorial Director

lbush@advanstar.com

Laura Bush