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Column chromatography is a key separation technique in the biopharmaceutical industry and life sciences. This process allows the isolation, identification, and purification of molecules such as proteins from mixtures for analysis or for production of the target molecule. Column chromatography systems are frequently used in the separation and purification of monoclonal antibodies, viruses, DNA, RNA, and antibody fragments or variants.

Preparative vs. analytical chromatography

Chromatography is either preparative or analytical. The former helps isolate a particular target in large scale, while analytical chromatography allows the separation and identification of components in a mixture and their proportions. Other key differences include:

Preparative chromatography Analytical chromatography
Large scale Small scale
Aimed at the purification of a specific substance from a complex blend Determines the presence and relative proportions of analytes on a mixture
High sample numbers and volumes Lower sample numbers and volumes
End products used in downstream processing Collection of products is not the aim

Chromatography instruments and systems

Chromatography instruments vary widely in size and purpose: systems may be designed for small research labs, for mid-phase clinical manufacturing, or for large-scale manufacturing. Chromatography systems can be very complex but will often include some configuration of inlet valves, pumps, and tubing to move the sample through the system, sensors that measure pH, conductivity, temperature, or optical density of the sample before or after it passes through the stationary phase, a column or other unit that holds the stationary phase, and tubing and outlets for the eluent. A computer interface and software are used to program or start a chromatography run, set reaction parameters, and view system status and run data. ÄKTA™ chromatography instruments from Cytiva run on UNICORN™ software, which offers a common control platform and intuitive user interface for different operational scales, as well as robust technical and service support.

Chromatography systems can be used for affinity chromatography, hydrophobic interaction chromatography, reverse-phase chromatography, ion-exchange chromatography, or size-exclusion chromatography. We offer prepacked columns, resins, fiber units, and other tools for various types of chromatography and at various scales.

Chromatography systems FAQs

What are chromatography systems?

These systems are purification units that allow the isolation of specific compounds from a complex mixture. Separation occurs based on interactions of the sample with the stationary phase. Chromatography systems are available as single-use or multi-use models to suit various separation needs.

How do automated chromatography systems work?

Automated chromatography systems work with software that acts as a control system for management of the purification unit’s operation. The software may control processes such as column packing and filtration and can be used at lab scale all the way up to manufacturing scale. Not only does automation simplify routine workflows, it can also help increase accuracy and reproducibility of results.

What are liquid chromatography systems used for?

Common applications of liquid chromatography systems are purification of mRNA for vaccines, proteins, DNA, plasmids, mAb, and viral vectors.

How do I know which type of chromatography instrument is right for my needs?

Use our web-based Purify app to select chromatography columns and resins, configure ÄKTA™ systems, and find accessories.