Red River College encourages instructional staff to undertake original research and, last year, faculty in the chemical and biosciences program spent some time looking at ways to improve a common analytical method. High performance liquid chromatography, or HPLC, is very widely used in chemical labs and processing facilities to separate and analyze chemical mixtures. However, most HPLC systems employ liquid solvents, such as methanol, which are often toxic.
Curtis Aab and Michael Judge were curious as to whether these toxic solvents could be replaced with a different, more environmentally-friendly liquid. They used ethyl lactate, a solvent which is so safe that it can be applied as an ingredient in cosmetics and foods. Research at the College demonstrated that ethyl lactate could indeed replace methanol when analyzing different pharmaceutical compounds using an officially approved HPLC method. Subsequent work by chemical/biosciences students extended the range of pharmaceuticals which can be analyzed using ethyl lactate. These findings could potentially allow at least some of the thousands of HPLC systems worldwide to transition to a “greener” process.
The research results were accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry and appeared in the May 2013 issue under the title “Ethyl lactate as an environmentally friendly HPLC mobile-phase modifier in the analysis of acetaminophen, caffeine, and ASA.” A link to the journal website is provided below.