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The Fundamentals of Preparative Chromatography

Written by Robert Hammell

Preparative Chromatography is used to isolate individual components of complex chemical mixtures, but how does it work, and what is it used for?

There are two types of chromatography: analytical and preparative. While they both amount to the same thing, isolating individual parts of a complex chemical compound, the difference between the two is what functions they fulfill. Analytical is used for testing purposes, and preparative is used for purification and isolation – usually for commercial reasons.

How does Preparative Chromatography Work?

Depending on the nature of the sample, for example is it aqueous (dissolved in water), non-aqueous (dissolved in some other solvent), and what is the final compound to be extracted will determine the parameters and processes of the chromatography. Ultimately, the goal of the extraction process for preparative chromatography is based on purity, speed, and cost. Preparative chromatography is most commonly  used to isolate compounds that will later be sold, so these factors determine how high the quality of the product ranks when compared to its competitors. Speed and cost relate to production, and ultimately the profit margins of the business.


Preparative Chromatography in Cannabis and CBD Production

Understanding that preparative chromatography is the process of isolating individual chemical compounds out of complex mixtures, it is easy to see why this process is essential to the cannabis and CBD industries. Any product that advertises a specific psychoactive effect is due to preparative chromatography isolating high concentrations or exact combinations of cannabinoids to produce the desired effect. With between 80-100 cannabinoids and 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals found in different variants of cannabis, the sky is the limit for how these compounds can be isolated, combined, and manufactured together. As the field continues to grow and improves, it leads to higher quality, and safer products for consumers. As the purity of the desired compounds increases, quality rises, and by limiting non-essential components, safety goes up.

About the author

Robert Hammell