Merck

Digitalize Your Analyses with TLC Explorer


INTRODUCTION

Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) is an easy, cost-effective, and flexible technique for quick chromatographic analysis. With our company’s extensive history, expertise, and know-how, we are leaders in the highest-quality TLC and HPTLC plates and accessories. Our dependable product line serves as a benchmark for both performance and utility. 

Introducing the TLC Explorer Documentation System, a superior instrumental and software solution for reliable TLC plate analysis. Whether you want a quick visual check or a software-based analysis and quantification, this device can analyze one or multiple plates up to an area of 20 x 20 cm. In addition, the device uses three LED light sources—white light (VIS), UV-A (366nm), and UV-C (254) to illuminate the plates from above in direct-light mode and identify distinct drug substance classes.

KEY FEATURES AND BENEFITS

  • Easy plug and play with no need for service maintenance
  • Compact (374 x 312 x 290 mm, L x W x H) and portable (10.4 kg) with an ergonomic, patented design
  • Intuitive web-app software for fast and reliable TLC plate analysis, complete with optimized picture quality (quantification tool included)
  • Multi-platform compatibility allows use on smartphones, laptops or any other WiFi or QR code-enabled devices
  • Inspection window for a secure quick check
  • Safe and secure, with no risk of UV exposure
  • Environmentally sustainable with LED illumination instead of mercury-based lamps


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The glove-compatible capacitive touch sensors in front of the device allow easy operation and are optimized for a typical laboratory setting (Figure 4, F2 – F4). The device also has a camera and a PC unit with an antenna, in accordance with industrial standards (URS). The camera, lamp unit, and optical filters are strategically positioned at optimized distances to ensure the system’s optimal performance. Despite its compact size, the TLC Explorer documentation system is very robust and is designed for a user-friendly, plug-and-play experience that eliminates the need for technical service support.  To enhance its versatility, the instrument can function off the grid by utilizing a power bank (to be ordered separately), making it suitable for remote locations.

The instrument has a security setup that guards against UV exposure while it is in use for your protection. The plates (one or multiple) are securely placed on an integrated tray known as the Drawer Unit (Figure 1). The analytical process only initiates when this Drawer Unit is closed, thereby assuring no UV exposure, as indicated by a specialized “Drawer – open” light (Figure 4, F6). Additionally, the device has moved from using traditional mercury lamps (gas-discharging lamps) to more sustainable and long-lasting LED modules for its light source.

The open drawer unit with TLC plates placed on Baseplate P1, positioned on an integrated tray.

Figure 1.TLC plates are positioned on removable Baseplate P1. An alignment pin underneath the plate area P3 helps the user to orient and align P4 the Baseplate correctly on the Drawer. The frame area P2 allows an easy handling of the Baseplate.

The digital documentation system provides flexibility and convenience during your entire TLC measurement. Connection to the system can be effortlessly established via WiFi or a simple QR code scan, making it operable on smartphones, laptops, or other desktop devices (Figure 2).

seamless and hassle free connectivity of TLC Explorer system to a phone, laptop, or a tablet.

Figure 2.Seamless operation of the TLC Explorer on a phone, laptop, and a tablet.


The intuitive software allows TLC plate analysis without the requirement of time-consuming manual data processing and handling. It has all of the basic features to run a TLC analysis while remaining simple and easy to learn. It enables quick measurement of tracks in less than 2 minutes, including automated track recognition. Furthermore, the software facilitates simultaneous detection and measurement of multiple plates, covering a 20 x 20 cm area (Figure 3).

Simultaneous placement of multiple TLC plates for analysis in the TLC Explorer

Figure 3.Multiple TLC plates for analysis in the TLC Explorer.


The software can do an auto-image rotation in case the plate is improperly aligned prior to measurement in the device. Background noise reduction filters can be applied as needed. It also automatically pre-selects the starting line and solvent front, though manual addition and deletion of tracks, solvent, and starting line is also an option. Annotations, such as methodology details or naming conventions, can be easily added for further clarity. Moreover, the software facilitates both comparative and quantitative examinations of TLC and HPTLC plates.

 Front side view of the TLC Explorer Documentation System.

Figure 4.TLC Explorer, Documentation system. F1: Power Button; F2, F3, F4: Illumination Buttons and Indicators for manual use; F5, F6: Drawer and “Drawer open” Indicator; F7, F8: Inspection Window and Shuttler Slider for visual plate analysis.

The TLC Explorer Documentation System features an easy, safe, and ergonomic design (Figure 6a), allowing for quick examination of the plate through its inspection window (Figure 5). A shutter slider (Figure 4, F8) controls the opening, revealing only about half of the inspection window’s size. This design choice reduces any disturbance from stray light entering the device while the user is looking through the inspection window. By pushing the shutter slider fully or only partially down, different parts of the baseplate can be seen.

Open inspection window for safe visual check showing an illuminated plate under an excitation of UV 254 nm.

Figure 5.Open inspection window for safe visual check. Illuminated plate under UV 254 nm excitation.


The device has three types of excitation sources that can be easily switched on by a light tap on the touch sensitive buttons indicating the wavelengths (Figure 4F2 – 4). However, only one of these light sources can be active at a time. 

Image on the left shows the front of the device having an angle of 12 degrees and the right image shows an ergonomic operation of the device while both sitting and standing.

Figure 6.The front of the device has an angle of 12° (a) allowing a more ergonomic operation while sitting (b) and standing.

The exterior of the TLC device is resistant to commonly used solvents and is easy to clean. The hardware itself is very robust and does not require routine services. In addition, the illumination unit is equipped with three different LED wavelengths, significantly extending its lifespan compared to traditional mercury-based lamps. And in case a lamp needs to be replaced, the device’s streamlined design makes this very simple and easily done.

Different views of the illumination unit

Figure 7.Easy steps of replacing the Illumination unit (LED Lamp module). a. Disconnect device from power. b. Open screws at back cover. Remove backside plate of the device. c. Remove spring lever and captive screw, that is fixed on the Illumination Unit. Pull off Illumination Until and insert new one.


1. How do I change the lamp unit?
To open the instrument, first remove the screw located on the back site. Then, pull out the whole lamp unit, which is situated at the top on the inside. Next, place the new lamp unit in the same position and just plug in. Finally, close up the box again. No tools are required for this process.

2. What are the expected lifetimes of the lamps?
The lamp units are equipped with three LEDs, which have a significantly longer lifetime compared to mercury-containing lamps. The LEDs can last a minimum of 2 years and up to seven years, depending on the usage hours.

3. Can I analyze plates with formats other than 20 x 10 cm and plates with backings other than glass?
Yes, the instrument allows analysis of a wide range of plate sizes and thicknesses for greater versatility. You can use aluminum- or plastic-backed TLC, HPTLC or PLC plates with different formats and shapes up to 20x20 cm.

4. How many different plates can be analyzed in parallel?
You can load multiple plates (and sheets) on the base plate, located on the top of the drawer, covering an area of 20 x 20 cm. The software is designed to analyze multiple plates in parallel and accurately distinguish between each one during the measurements.

5. Can I also analyze the HPTLC plates?
Yes, the instrument (including software) allows a highly reliable analysis of HPTLC, TLC, and PLC plates.

6. Can I run a wavelength scan?
No, unfortunately, this feature is not available. You can carry out excitations at 254 nm, 366 nm, and VIS wavelengths.

7. Is the quantification tool GMP-compliant?
No, the software is not fully GMP-compliant.

8. Is there a warranty included?
Yes, we offer a one-year warranty. And in case you encounter any technical issues, please contact your local representative for further advice.

Find a complete ordering list of all available accessories on our website, www.sigmaaldrich.com/tlc.

For any assistance or technical support, please contact your local TechService or visit our service website, sigmaaldrich.com/TLCservice.

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