by Sanji Bhal, Director, Marketing Communications
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with a group at Dow AgroSciences who have been using our method development software, ACD/AutoChrom, for some time. If you are considering purchasing or implementing method development software, here is some advice and opinions to keep in mind.
Don’t expect it to replace your expertise but we wouldn’t be without it
The software is a systematic approach to method development which provides a high probability of converging on an acceptable answer. While continuing to start with, what you’re used to doing can be very successful and efficient, it can also be indeterminate and may never lead to a conclusion. The software gives you confidence that your final method is the best answer, rather than just an answer. With the kind of thorough screening AutoChrom walks you through, you feel more confident going forward with a particular column and mobile phase combination because you have data to back up that choice.
[The software] ensures that we have vetted the appropriate data, even if we plan on employing a legacy method.
Training is crucial
The software can be very powerful but is also complicated. Training is crucial to get you going with good results.
Have at least one regular user of the software.
If you don’t use the software regularly enough, getting back up to speed takes a little while. The best model is to have someone using the software regularly who can reduce the learning curve for less regular users and help you get the best results with minimal delay.
Poor simulations? Check your data input
It’s a pleasure to work with the simulation software and the vast majority of the time we’re pretty happy with the accuracy [predicted retention times of peaks versus experimental]. When accuracy is poor we often find it’s due to overlapped peaks that were difficult to assign; for example, where a minor impurity was near/with a major peak. Those difficult to assign peaks will likely need further examination.
Instrument control really comes into its own for complex method development
If you are looking at a mixture of four components with one detector, using the software in offline mode [not connected to the instrument] or just using the simulation software [ACD/LC Simulator], is good enough to help simulate separations. There’s not a huge advantage to using online method development because you can keep track of the data so easily yourself. When you get 20 plus peaks and you have to use 2 or 3 different channels [UV, MS, diode array, etc.] to detect all the peaks, manually keeping track of all that data becomes really cumbersome and the AutoChrom software greatly facilitates the process.
Since implementing the software, we’ve found it satisfyingly easy to track from experiment design down to a single peak.
We are able to keep track of components in a streamlined manner.
It’s software…not magic
Automatic peak tracking doesn’t work well for isobaric compounds. The analyst will need to examine isobaric peaks to ensure they are correctly identified. Simply accepting the peak identifications from the automatic peak tracking is not recommended. While automatic peak tracking generally reduces the operator effort needed to identify peaks, and sometimes picks up impurities that manual examination missed, it is a recommended best practice to review all peak identifications. This is particularly important for mixtures that have not been thoroughly characterized and may contain previously unidentified components.
Read the full case study to learn more about how this team designed efficiencies into their method development processes.