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Novel concepts and techniques in capillary electrochromatography

posted on 24.01.2017, 00:07 authored by Kulsing, Chadin
Capillary electrochromatography (CEC) has been realised as a combination of high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and capillary electrophoresis (CE) allowing the separation of analytes based on their differing adsorption and migration behaviour. There is a considerable interest in developing new methodologies for CEC, which uses chromatographic beads or monoliths as stationary phases or alternatively employs open tubular (OT) capillaries relying on surface modifications. Besides the bulk flat flow profile of the mobile phase in CEC columns allowing an enhanced resolution, due to the influence of the applied electrical field there are other possibilities to provide a higher resolution with better detection. As an additional newly means for peak sharpening and sample enrichment isotachophoresis and a “sweeping mechanism” could be envisaged, which both take advantage of the inhomogeneous electric field pattern in the capillary by choosing appropriate leading and terminating background electrolytes (BGEs). Transient isotachophoresis would be another technique to provide an increased plate height in the separations, using an optimized sample matrix, e.g. containing a relatively high acetonitrile content, with the same leading and terminating BGEs. In this thesis, a new method to generate a “sharpening zone”, which is similar to the concept of transient isotachophoresis, was established using an aqueous sample matrix containing an organic solvent. Target analytes within this zone could be concentrated whilst they migrated through the capillary. A novel technique was developed that used the sharpening zone for sweeping and concentrating several unresolved analyte peaks allowing an enhanced peak resolution. As the aim was to concentrate only some part of the analyte zone containing compounds of interest, the position and width of the sharpening zone needed to be well controlled. Various techniques to tune the width and position of the sharpening zone were thus developed, involving modifying the organic modifier content in the BGE, applying pressure additionally to the electroosmotic flow (EOF) and modifying the inner surface of the capillaries. This work also critically evaluated some related existing knowledge and theoretical approaches in CEC including the concept of tuneable system eigenpeaks (noncomigrating or ghost peaks caused by waves of an electric field in the capillary). Although peak broadening caused by eigenpeaks (which often suppresses resolution in CEC) has been well described for aqueous or pure non-aqueous BGEs, a systematic study of eigenmobility in aqueous/acetonitrile BGEs had not been reported. The experiments related to the eigenmobility led to a new approach to tune the eigenpeak position in chromatograms whereby a selective sample peak sharpening mechanism was elaborated using the sharpening zone. The novel approach was demonstrated for the separation of various peptides in the CE mode and for the resolution of incompletely resolved chiral amino acids in CEC. These investigations furthermore led to the development of an appropriate stationary phase, which was produced using techniques for an in-column synthesis of a molecular imprinted polymer (MIP). Well prepared MIPs are capable of specifically enhancing the retention of target analytes, herein focusing on enantio-selective isolation of chiral molecules. Since such a MIP was rather rigid, which often caused capillary clogging when used as a conventional monolithic stationary phase, this MIP was incorporated into porous layer open tubular (PLOT) capillaries. Numerous experimental difficulties were overcome with respect to the vinylisation of long fused-silica capillaries and for the polymerisation of the MIP within using thermal- and photo-polymerisations. A method for the characterization of such MIP-PLOT capillaries was elaborated involving the Langmuir adsorption theory. The new columns were evaluated using chromatography, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) and CEC analysis. All experiments were designed according to the principles of Green Chemistry. These concepts involved the use of small scale analysis, simulation studies reducing the number of performed experiments, systematic studies with low amounts of solvents and materials, and optimisation of synthesis methods to reduce time, energy and reagent consumption. The theories, methods and results presented in this thesis will, in the future, allow further targeted developments of novel analytical tools for a green, sensitive, selective and improved resolution analysis of chemical and biological compounds including chiral compounds, peptides and proteins.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Milton Hearn

Additional supervisor 1

Simon J. Harris, Reinhard I. Boysen

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Science