Refractive Index Sensitivity
RI sensitivity applies only to UV-vis detectors. There are two sources of RI noise in post-column applications:
- RI discontinuities due to imperfect mixing.
- RI discontinuities due to temperature gradients in the eluant/reagent stream as it leaves a heated reactor.
In either case, when such inhomogeneities enter the flowcell, they bend light into the wall or off the photomultiplier tube, causing detector noise. The noise usually correlates with the piston cycles of the pumps, thus limiting the detector to low-sensitivity applications.
Most flowcells in modern UV-vis detectors are designed to minimize the effects of RI.
In order to minimize the temperature-related RI effects mentioned above, some manufacturers have a capillary heat exchanger at the flowcell entrance. In some instances this heat exchanger has an internal diameter of 0.12 mm (0.005 inches), which can result in post-column pressures in excess of 42 bar (600 psi). Since this can exceed the pressure rating of a heated reactor made with fluorocarbon tubing, this small-diameter heat-exchanger tube may need to be replaced with a 0.25 mm (0.010 inch) i.d. tube.
Detector Pressure Ratings
When the eluant-reagent stream from the heated reactor reaches the detector, it can release dissolved gas as it cools. The Pickering Laboratories derivatization instruments place a back-pressure of 7 bar (100 psi) on the detector flowcell in order to prevent the formation of bubbles.
- suppress boiling in the reactor
- prevent outgassing in the detector flowcell.
The back-pressure regulator can be factory-adjusted to accommodate flowcells with a lower back-pressure rating, depending upon the reactor temperature. but a setting lower than 3.2 5 bar (70 psi) is not recommended for reactor temperatures over 100° C.
Operating an HPLC system with a post-column derivatization system can be as routine as regular LC. The benefits from this LC/post-column combination include minimal sample pre-treatment, greatly improved sensitivity, and enhanced selectivity for compounds that would normally be much more difficult to detect.