High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) is used to separate and identify the chemical components that make up a particular mixture. With technological leaps forward in the early 2000s, the process has become so refined, scientists can detect the tiniest differences between components, leaving little doubt to a sample’s chemical makeup. As the science of HPLC grows more sophisticated, so do its practical applications across multiple industries.
Take a look at three ways HPLC testing helps save lives and solve mysteries in a range of professional settings:
Over the last decade or so, concern about air and water quality, toxic emissions, and the contamination of our natural resources have reached unprecedented levels. For example, in the 1960s and 70s, the Great Lakes were so heavily contaminated with industrial waste that they could not support life, became choked with algae, and were fit for neither drinking nor swimming. Environmental groups and government agencies worked together to clean up the Lakes, and part of that commitment is ongoing water tests.
Around the world, HPLC experts are hired to test water for its chemical components – and ensure it is safe to drink. Chromatography is also used to monitor air quality, identifying toxins that are harmful to humans.
When students think about HPLC training, they often imagine working in quality control settings. But as separation techniques evolve in complexity, technicians are often sought out to help investigate crimes – as part of a forensic team. HPLC is used to discover cause of death by testing blood samples for toxic components like controlled substances or poisons. It’s also used to test athletes for performance-enhancing drugs. High performance liquid chromatography is an integral part of investigative forensics, helping law enforcement collect the evidence they need to solve crimes.
Of course, HPLC also plays an important role in the discovery and development of pharmaceuticals. For students interested in helping cure disease and improving patients’ quality of life, working in a drug company quality control lab could be ideal. An important part of the clinical research process, HPLC is used to ensure that newly manufactured products are safe for consumers. Lab technicians test both raw materials and finished products to ensure consistency, and to provide documented evidence that government standards are being upheld.
Regulators like Health Canada and the FDA demand this sort of testing is done on a regular basis in order to protect patient health – they can shut down a drug manufacturing center if products are not verified by methods like HPLC. In fact, high performance liquid chromatography is one of the most widely used testing methods by pharma companies. Drug makers know that this highly accurate technique can help avoid defective products, expensive recalls, and reputational damages.
Which chromatography career would you pursue?