Many labs purchase chromatography systems to just get today’s job done as efficiently as possible. This is quite understandable given the environment we work in and with all the challenges a modern laboratory must address. When it comes to ion analysis and ion chromatography (IC) systems, getting the essentials is of the utmost importance. Simplicity is often one of the most valued aspects to consider when purchasing a new chromatographic system and ion chromatography is no different. However, sometimes the analytical needs, requirements or methods change, and your lab needs to be agile enough to adapt. So, does simplicity also mean restricted or limited, and to what degree? Let’s explore the limits of Thermo Scientific essential ion chromatography systems.

Why limit your system to only anions or cations?

A vast number of labs are using IC systems to analyze either anions or cations in water samples, with anions being the majority. Many labs will dedicate their IC systems to just one set of analytes, running common anions in drinking water (Application Brief 73725), for example, on their IC system. Sometimes the need arises to analyze cations. The lab’s system may be dedicated to anion analysis and may have even come with an anion analysis kit. Does this mean you are locked in to or limited to just anions?

Thankfully, no. Your Thermo Scientific essential IC system is flexible enough to run either anions or cations. To switch over, remove the columns, suppressor and eluent used for anions and obtain the same items for the separation of cations, which is also may be available in a kit. Be sure to store the anion columns and suppressor properly and rinse the system well with high-purity water before adding the cation columns and suppressor. Also, the basic procedure for running cations is very similar to anions — just make up the correct eluent and regenerant solution for cations. Once you are done and want to run anions again, then remove the cation items, rinse, and replace with the anion items. This is not a procedure you will want to do on a daily or weekly basis, but you do have the ability to switch between anions and cations on the same IC system.

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Essential IC system addresses additional challenges in the lab

Aside from the ability to switch between anions and cations, the essential IC system offers the flexibility to address other challenges a lab may face in their IC analysis, such as a different sample type. While drinking water might be the most common type of sample in your lab, you may need to analyze a more complex sample requiring additional preparation. Some samples may be high in ions or other compounds that will either interfere with the ions of interest or reduce column lifetimes. For example, a brine or saltwater sample will be high in NaCl, causing a large chlorine peak that will make anion analysis extremely difficult.

A Dionex InGuard cartridge can be used inline, before the guard and separator columns, without the need for a new IC system. Simply add an auxiliary valve. Some essential Thermo Scientific IC systems, such as the Thermo Scientific Dionex Aquion IC system, are ready to have either a 6-port or 10-port valve added to the system to take advantage of this capability. Many InGuard cartridges are available depending on the type of interferences you are trying to remove.

Essential IC systems offer a lot of flexibility and the capability to grow with your laboratory.