It’s time to embrace a new way of obtaining pure components from complex natural samples.
Sebastian Pantò |
Over the past few years, several efforts have been made to obtain bioactive molecules from natural sources, but the most widespread technique for obtaining pure chemicals is organic synthesis, which plays a major role in many fields such as pharmaceutical, food, flavour and fragrances. The practice is often inefficient; in fact, sometimes kilograms, even tons of raw material are required to obtain enough pure product. And the approach certainly cannot be considered “green” because of the huge production of waste, including solvents and hazardous by-products.
Over the last century, both liquid and gas preparative chromatography appeared in analytical chemistry as a possible substitute for organic synthesis for the isolation of pure molecules. However, neither technique – and in particular, preparative gas chromatography – was seriously considered from a commercial point of view, because of the low quantities collected per run, as well as the degree of purity attained. Preparative chromatography also had other limitations: difficulty in separation of very complex samples and the low relative concentration of the components to be isolated.
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