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Adsorption mechanism of acids and bases in reversed-phase liquid chromatography in weak buffered mobile phases designed for liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry

Gritti, Fabrice, Guiochon, Georges
Journal of chromatography 2009 v.1216 no.10 pp. 1776-1788
acids, active sites, adsorbents, adsorption, mass spectrometry, models, reversed-phase liquid chromatography, silica, sorption isotherms, thermodynamics
The overloaded band profiles of five acido-basic compounds were measured, using weakly buffered mobile phases. Low buffer concentrations were selected to provide a better understanding of the band profiles recorded in LC/MS analyses, which are often carried out at low buffer concentrations. In this work, 10 μL samples of a 50mM probe solution were injected into [formula removed]-bonded columns using a series of five buffered mobile phases at [formula removed] between 2 and 12. The retention times and the shapes of the bands were analyzed based on thermodynamic arguments. A new adsorption model that takes into account the simultaneous adsorption of the acidic and the basic species onto the endcapped adsorbent, predicts accurately the complex experimental profiles recorded. The adsorption mechanism of acido-basic compounds onto RPLC phases seems to be consistent with the following microscopic model. No matter whether the acid or the base is the neutral or the basic species, the neutral species adsorbs onto a large number of weak adsorption sites (their saturation capacity is several tens g/L and their equilibrium constant of the order of 0.1L/g). In contrast, the ionic species adsorbs strongly onto fewer active sites (their saturation capacity is about 1g/L and their equilibrium constant of the order of a few L/g). From a microscopic point of view and in agreement with the adsorption isotherm of the compound measured by frontal analysis (FA) and with the results of Monte-Carlo calculations performed by Schure et al., the first type of adsorption sites are most likely located in between [formula removed]-bonded chains and the second type of adsorption sites are located deeper in contact with the silica surface. The injected concentration (50mM) was too low to probe the weakest adsorption sites (saturation capacity of a few hundreds g/L with an equilibrium constant of one hundredth of L/g) that are located at the very interface between the [formula removed]-bonded layer and the bulk phase.