Automating EPH Fractionation in the Lab

Anyone familiar with Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons (EPH)  methods such as those developed by Massachusetts DEP, New Jersey DEP, or one of the other various state agencies that regulate EPHs is familiar with the long and grueling process of fractionation. These methods require you to split the initial sample extract into two distinct fractions, the aromatic and aliphatic portions, which allow you to better characterize hydrocarbons that may be affecting the environment (for more info read out previous blog post). It is most commonly achieved through a manual method which is driven by only gravity that can cause quite a bottleneck in the lab. This process can be particularly finicky requiring you to determine the exact volumes needed so that you do not elute one fraction’s compounds into the wrong fraction by mistake. On top of this, the traditional procedure involves the use of gravity to elute the fractions through a cartridge which requires a lot of hands-on time to ensure that the cartridge does not go dry and that it is moved at the correct time. All in all, this process can cause many a headache when it does not run smoothly.

Biotage Extrahera

So, what is a good alternative to the cumbersome manual fractionation method you ask? The Biotage® Extrahera™ is an easy to use automated system that can be used in conjunction with solid-phase extraction among other things. This instrument automates sample processing, allowing skilled analysts to devote their time to other demanding tasks such as data analysis. Some more good news is that being an automated system, you will not experience differences between users like you commonly see when a different person than normal performs manual fractionation. The days of having a sprawling fractionation setup taking up an entire hood will be gone since the Extrahera can be set up on a benchtop and is neatly contained in a 34” x 23” area. Perhaps the best news, and something that made my jaw drop when reading this, is that the Extrahera can fractionate 24 samples in roughly 40 minutes! That is staggering since fractionating 24 samples would probably take me 8 hours on a good day when I was in the lab.  Download our latest application note.

The benefits don’t stop there as this system can not only help streamline your workflow, but it also helps improve results and lower costs. The main reason that your results will improve is due to the fact that the solvent levels are optimized in a way that breakthrough and fractionation issues will be drastically reduced from batch to batch. This allows you to have much more consistent data and prevents you from wasting time having to re-process failed samples. Another positive impact to the recoveries is that it is much quicker to process these sample extracts, which reduces the evaporation of your samples since they will not be sitting out for an extended period of time post-fractionation. This goes hand in hand with cost reduction as solvent volumes are reduced, saving you money on solvents. Finally, the cartridges are 3 mL cartridges that use much less media allowing us to achieve those lower solvent volumes, again cutting costs on consumables. The bottom line is that this system has the benefit of making your analysts happy as well as your operators happy.

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