I’ve recently returned from HPLC 2017 in Prague where a number of different HPLC and UHPLC systems were showcased and discussed in the many excellent scientific presentations. To many, I am sure, there appears to be very little difference in all these systems. They all perform the same function and are composed of the same modules — pump, autosampler, column compartment and detector. But is there one system that performs better than the rest and why? In this article, I will discuss why I think the Thermo Scientific™ Vanquish™ UHPLC platform is currently the standout system and how many small, incremental gains add up to a clear performance advantage.
A real-life example of how incremental gains can lead to a clear performance advantage can be seen with the British cycling team. Back at the turn of the century, British cycling had won the sum of one gold medal in its 76-year Olympic history. But by the close of the Beijing and London Olympics in 2008 and 2012 respectively, that tally had jumped to 15 gold medals. What changed in that intervening period was a focus on incremental, marginal gains; looking at every aspect and trying to get an additional 1% improvement in each element. All of those 1% improvements would lead to a significant aggregate increase in performance. It appears the process of marginal improvements paid off! This interview with Sir David Brailsford from British Cycling in Harvard Business Review offers more details on the approach.
The same approach has been taken with the Vanquish UHPLC platform — building a system from the ground up, looking at each individual element and how each could be improved, even by the smallest amount, to give an aggregated increase in system performance. While the system may appear to be similar to other UHPLC systems, the Vanquish delivers improved performance built on incremental gains of multiple components.
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Incremental Gains in the Vanquish UHPLC
There are many elements that I can consider here. In all there are 26 patents on the Vanquish platform alone. The platform was built with user input allowing for new engineering and design approaches to be considered to incorporate incremental gains in many elements of the system. Some of the ones I consider most worthy of mention are:
- SmartInject™ Technology – This enhancement means that the big drop in pressure at sample injection is virtually eliminated. This gives two immediate benefits: 1.) A huge improvement in retention time precision and 2.) prevents pressure shocks to the column thus improving its lifetime.
- Ceramic Switching Valve – With 1500 bar in the Vanquish Horizon UHPLC system, the switching valve in the autosampler was completely re-designed. This new ceramic switching valve polishes itself as it injects the sample — meaning no seal replacement, maintenance or leaks in the valve for the lifetime of the system.
- Pump Technology – Fourth generation SmartFlow™ pumping technology for unmatched flow accuracy and precision; Low pulsation with Adaptive Thermal Effect Compensation; and up to 1500 bar pump pressure, all designed to offer low baseline noise for increased sensitivity, unsurpassed retention time precision and power to drive the most demanding current and future applications.
- Column Thermostatting –The temperature range in the column compartment has been extended to 5-1200 Both forced and still air thermostatting options are available, as well as passive and active eluent pre-heating to offer the maximum flexibility in your separations and extend workflow options to deliver maximum efficiency and resolution.
- Analyte Detection – Diode Array Detector (DAD) with optimized fused silica LightPipe™ technology for excellent resolution, linearity and sensitivity. New Charged Aerosol Detector (CAD) for the Vanquish platform offers all the benefits of CAD, but with enhanced linear dynamic range and accuracy, It also utilizes the separation speed and resolution of the Vanquish platform.
- Workflow Integration – Incremental gains can also be found in the integration of the Vanquish UHPLC in to separations workflows. The Vanquish is fully integrated with Thermo Scientific mass spectrometers. Ease-of-use is ensured with operation through Thermo Scientific Chromeleon™ CDS software and the dedicated 1.5 µm solid-core Thermo Scientific Accucore™ Vanquish columns to gain maximum benefit from the 1500 bar pump pressure of the Vanquish Horizon.
- Integrated Modularity – Whilst each of the developments above give their own individual benefit, the integration and the co-operation among the different enhancements gives aggregated benefits. For example, the LightPipe technology in the DAD offers excellent sensitivity which is enhanced by the low pulsation of the pumps generating low background noise.
I could continue, but I think you get a flavour of the incremental gains that have been integrated into the Vanquish platform.
Whilst many UHPLC instruments may look similar and offer comparable performance on paper, the Vanquish UHPLC platform has adopted a process of incremental, marginal gains in every aspect of its conception and development, which when aggregated, come together to offer a distinct performance advantage. Isn’t it time you separated your science from the status quo and evaluated what Vanquish could bring to your separations?