North Park University Chemistry Program to Obtain Flash Chromatography System

New chemistry equipment
The Chemistry Department will acquire this flash chromatography system for use by chemistry students. (Image courtesy of Sorbent Technologies, Norcross, Ga.)

New equipment to enhance program, aid in future certification

CHICAGO (December 18, 2012) — North Park University's Chemistry Department will soon obtain a significant instrument to be used by chemistry, biology, and pre-health students enrolled in mid- and upper-level chemistry courses. Acquisition of a flash chromatography system will give more than 80 students hands-on experience with rapid chemical separation techniques, enhancing laboratory education and research.

Being able to separate compounds mixed together is an important part of chemistry, said Dr. Jonathan Rienstra-Kiracofe, professor of chemistry and department chair. Currently, the process is slow and time-consuming without the flash chromatography system, limiting what can be done in a typical laboratory session.

"If we have an instrument that can speed up separations, we can process many more samples in a lab teaching time period," Rienstra-Kiracofe said. "The flash chromatography system has a pump that forces the liquid through specialized columns at high pressure, and in doing so, it produces a separation that happens quite quickly."

Funded mostly by a grant from the Max Goldenberg Foundation, Chicago, and other University funds, the portable, table-top system costs slightly more than $10,000. This is the foundation's fourth grant to the University chemistry program, helping to fund significant equipment purchases to enhance student education, and to help the department achieve its goal to become certified by the American Chemical Society.

The flash chromatography system will be used most frequently by organic chemistry classes taught by Dr. Isabel Larraza, associate professor of chemistry, though the system also has uses in analytical chemistry and biochemistry.

There are wide-ranging benefits for students who gain experience with the system, she said. Students who attend graduate school will use flash chromatography systems often. In industry, research and development work usually requires flash chromatography, Larraza said. For example, chemists working in the pharmaceutical industry use flash chromatography to purify compounds to be tested in drug manufacturing. The system also fits with the Chemistry Department's commitment to "green chemistry," she said. "We're economizing on all the materials, and will be able to use safer solvents such as water—thus we're protecting the environment," Larraza emphasized.

In addition to the flash chromatography system, Rienstra-Kiracofe said the department expects delivery this month of an instrument that uses x-rays to detect elements' concentration levels in samples. Known as a "TXRF," it is among the new instruments the department will use when it moves into the Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life, expected to be completed in 2014. Acquiring the TXRF now will enable student researchers to learn how to use it and to design experiments for future classes. Another new instrument the department will acquire when it moves into the Johnson Center is a full-size Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer. It already has a miniature NMR, thanks to a 2011 Goldenberg Foundation grant.

Use @npunews to follow North Park University News on Twitter. For further information or resources, contact John Brooks, Director of Media Relations and News, via email or at (773) 244-5522. Learn more about North Park University.

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