Client Spotlight: Hradec Kralove @ Charles University
- Expanded capabilities of liquid chromatography, specifically pretreatment of samples
- Sparked new research in the field of Sequential Injection Chromatography (SIC)
- Tool development with higher operating pressure than previous liquid chromatography instruments
flow injection analysis, sequential injection analysis, high performance liquid chromatography, separation columns, research and development
In the wide scope of analytical techniques, rarely is flow methodology used with a separation column. The only columns you’ll find in flow injection analysis (FIA) or sequential injection analysis (SIA) are ones used to condition or pretreat samples. Examples of theses pretreatment columns are Cadmium columns in routine nitrate analysis, or protein-linked columns, like Protein A, for biopharmaceutical processes. But what if you introduced separation columns into flow methods? What if you could combine the best parts of flow methods with separation techniques like high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)?
An exciting collaboration between FIAlab and the Analytical Chemistry Group (ACG) at Charles University – Hradec Kralove was able to combine these techniques. FIAlab produced a novel fluidic design and an analytical instrument that supported the ideas of ACG and is now available on FIAlab’s production line.
Among other things, flow methods are incredibly effective at automating manual and complex fluidic handling processes. Typical FIA methods automate routine water, soil and plant analysis for inorganics. These applications are important for assessing growing conditions and environmental health. Flow methods are invaluable as they can process thousands of samples per day, giving us more data about the food we grow and the water we drink. Apart from routine analysis, FIA and SIA instruments are versatile. They can mix, heat, chill, dilute, diffuse, dialyze, and analyze samples in any order you wish. A scientist can automate procedures, like complex biopharmaceutical pretreatment, to save significant time and labor.
Another powerful analytical technique is high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This separation technique is one of the most useful tools in the analytical industry with thousands of laboratories using it worldwide. Perceived advantages of this technique include its diverse sample types, strong reproducibility in quantitative analysis, and sensitive detection. HPLC can also be coupled with other techniques. The best example is mass spectrometry (MS). The HPLCMS takes the best parts of MS and HPLC to create a technique that has excellent separation capability and incredible sensitivity and specificity.
Prof. Petr Solich from the Analytical Chemistry Group (ACG) at the Faculty of Pharmacy at Charles University – Hradec Kralove recognized the versatility of SIA and the power of HPLC. As the leader of a research group that focuses on chromatographic and flow techniques, he had an idea to broaden the capabilities of liquid chromatography by bringing separation to flow methods. Chromatographers have combined HPLC with other techniques in the past, why not utilize SIA to do the same? Not long after, a new analytical concept, the Sequential Injection Chromatography (SIC or SIChrom) analyzer was created. In collaboration with the ACG, FIAlab was the first instrument manufacturer to produce a SIChrom Analyzer.
Starting from their original idea, the ACG Group has grown the SIC concept to become a strong research program that has produced over 70 scientific papers. The group’s success has inspired similar flow method research in other academic institutions and laboratories in Europe, Asia, and South America.
One can ask the question, how such success was possible? Certainly, the most important factor was the initial creative idea, as well as capable scientists to carry out the practical method development. As usual, the first experiments were conducted with limited hardware to establish a proof of concept. Subsequently, it became apparent that further research beyond preliminary studies was not feasible due to the lack of suitable instrumentation. Without a tailored instrument, it was clear that SIC would not mature beyond the first few publications.
However, the scientists at the ACG Group knew that they had discovered a powerful tool. They approached FIAlab Instruments to collaborate and eventually produce an automated instrument that would be tailored to SIC. The collaboration led to the SIChrom analyzer, which propelled SIC from a proof of concept to a widely publicized scientific technique.
Over the years, the SIC applications grew, the separation column technology advanced, and research groups developed even more sophisticated ideas of SIC applications. That led, once again, to a situation where existing instrumentation could not keep up with state-of-the-art research ideas. Another collaboration ensued between the ACG Group and FIAlab to design a second-generation SIChrom analyzer. The new system had higher pressure capabilities for high-performance separation columns, increased flexibility for fluidics and microfluidic design, and a modern, intuitive software operation platform. This unit was recently installed at Charles University in Hradec Kralove and is actively being used for research projects within their Specialized Team for Advanced Research on Separation Science (STARSS) initiative funded by the European Union. The success of this instrument motivated FIAlab to formally manufacture this instrument, taking it out of the development phase. It is now included in our suite of sequential injection analyzers. We call it the SIChrom II Analyzer.
FIAlab is proud to have the opportunity to support and collaborate with the ACG Group over the years. Helping the ACG Group realize the full potential of their new, unique analytical technique is greatly fulfilling. We see this collaboration as a true testament to FIAlab’s motto: Fluidics Intelligently Automated. We took a fluidic design that was never before implemented, engineered an analytical instrument for it, and brought it to our production line. That’s full-circle instrument manufacturing.
“The collaboration with FIAlab has been extremely valuable for enabling us to carry out cutting edge research experiments and advance the SIC technology. Without the two generations of SIChrom analyzers, SIC would never have reached the strong scientific presence it now enjoys.”
– ACG Group
If you have a specific or eccentric analytical method you’d like to automate, reach out to us. Whether it is microfluidics, sample pretreatment, automated wet chemistry, software development, or custom instrumentation, we’d be happy to start collaborating with you too.
For more information about the STARSS program or the faculty and work at Charles University, check out the following links: