biofuel analysisI recently attended a webinar called Feedstock Characterization and Fermentation Monitoring of Biofuels (links to on-demand webinar registration), which discussed the use of the ion chromatography-based method, HPAE-PAD or high-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection (links to HPAE-PAD webpage) for carbohydrate analysis in the biofuel industry. Although current methodologies typically rely on HPLC with refractive index (RI) detection, the LC method didn’t quite do what the webinar presenters wanted. The biggest problems they cited were long run times and coelution of some sugars resulting in false-positive reporting.

Paul Voelker, Chem/Petrochem Market Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, described a “complete system” for HPAE-PAD analysis of carbohydrates analyzed from biofuel R&D to production. If you’re interested, check out Rapid and Sensitive Determination of Biofuel Sugars by Ion Chromatography (links to downloadable application note) for the system details and methodology. I think you’ll find it interesting if you want a rapid (high-pressure ion chromatography system (links to Thermo Scientific Dionex ICS-5000+ Reagent-Free HPIC system webpage). You can also check out our online resource on this high-pressure ion chromatography solution featuring product videos, on-demand webinars, and downloadable technical and application notes.

I have to say that the star of the show is really a new carbohydrate analysis column (links to the Thermo Scientific Dionex CarboPac SA10 column website). Kevin Chambliss, Associate Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry Baylor University, talked about the development of this new stationary phase, which started with his modification of the Dionex CarboPac PA20 stationary phase, and was developed by the Thermo Scientific R&D group into the Dionex CarboPac SA20 column. The new column was introduced just last year. Kevin then went on to discuss his results in evaluating the linear range and reproducibility using real samples and inter-laboratory testing with comparison to the HPLC-RI. Kevin plans to publish his results this year.

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Archana Pandey, Senior Research Associate Analytics, R&D, LS9 Inc., showed us the process she went through to develop a robust method for high confidence in reporting of biofuels sugars for her alternative biofuels company. Archana was pushing the limits of HPLC-RI, then transitioned to a tandem-column HPLC-RI method, and finally showed us the development and optimization of her HPAE-PAD method.

Given the Q&A at the end of the webinar, attendees seemed very interested with two hardware changes Kevin made for sample dilutions. The first was to use a 10 µL instead of a 400 µL sample loop. The second was to use a 62 mil instead of a 2 mil gasket. The gasket helps to control the amount of spray to the detector. Although somewhat different, Archana also made sample loop and gasket size changes to address her sample dilution needs. I will review the Q&As for the webinar in Part II of Ion Chromatography: Carbohydrate Analysis of Biofuels by HPAE-PAD.

What are you doing in carbohydrate analysis for biofuels? We’d like to hear from you.