Journal of chromatography. A

Polarity-adjustable reversed phase ultrathin-layer chromatography.

PMID 23116804


Reversed phase thin layer chromatography (TLC) or high performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC) plates modified with C18, C8 or C2 to provide the silica-gel stationary phase with different polarities are available on the market, however, reversed phase plates with tunable polarity have not been reported. Given the limited variety of reversed phase plates, mobile phase composition optimization is necessary to obtain better separation of analytes with similar characteristics, which is often a time consuming step. We present polarity-adjustable reversed phase ultrathin-layer chromatography (UTLC) plates, which simplifies the mobile phase screening process and greatly expands the selection of reversed phase plates. The plates were fabricated on glass substrates with SiO(2) nanopillars deposited using the glancing angle deposition (GLAD) technique. SiO(2) nanopillars were functionalized with octadecyltrichlorosilane to generate a super hydrophobic stationary phase. Unlike commercial silica-gel based stationary phases, the isolated nanopillar architecture presented here exposes a high surface area to post-fabrication surface treatments. In our work, an O(2) plasma treatment at different powers, pressures and exposure times was used to shorten the silane carbon chain and introduce COOH groups to the surface, producing plates with finely tunable polarities. Separation of a model dye mixture of Sudan blue and Sudan IV confirmed the tuning of surface polarities by measurement of retention behavior changes. The dye elution order reversed as a result of the change in surface polarity. When the same plasma treatment process was tested on commercial reversed phase plates, separation behavior did not change because the disordered and tortuous silica gel restricts the accessible surface area. Plasma treatment of GLAD structures with highly accessible surfaces improved control over interfacial properties, producing better reverse phase separations.