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What is Flash Chromatography?

What is Flash Chromatography?


Simple Definition

Flash Chromatography is a rapid form of preparative column chromatography based on optimised pre-packed columns through which is pumped solvent at a high flow rate. It is a simple and economical approach to Preparative LC.

The technique was published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry in 1978 as an alternative to simple column chromatography.



For purifying organic compounds, flash chromatography is a quick and inexpensive technique. Initially developed in 1978 by W.C. Stills of Columbia University, flash chromatography is now a popular method of purification and separation using normal phases. Increasingly, the use of reverse phase packing materials is opening up the technique to a wider range of preparative separations.

Flash chromatography utilises a plastic column filled with some form of solid support, usually silica gel, with the sample to be separated placed on top of this support. The rest of the column is filled with an isocratic or gradient solvent which, with the help of pressure, enables the sample to run through the column and become separated. Flash chromatography used air pressure initially, but today pumps are used to speed up the separation. This technique is considered a low to medium-pressure technique and may be scaled up for separations from a few mg to many tens or hundreds of grammes.



There are many varied applications of flash chromatography including drug discovery, sample clean-up, natural product purification and many more.

There is a direct relationship for normal phase flash chromatography with TLC and often the techniques are used together prior to and post flash separations.

The following pages are designed to offer an Introduction to Flash Chromatography.