ZOOM Online: HPLC Troubleshooting

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The ability to identify and correct problems with HPLC or UHPLC separations is an important skill for practising chromatographers. In addition to the mechanical or electronic problems that can compromise the performance of instrument modules, changes in the chemical or physical characteristics of the column and/or unintentional changes in mobile phase chemistry can alter the quality of the separation.

This one-day course is designed to equip analytical scientists with the knowledge and tools required to correctly diagnose mechanical or chemical problems in HPLC or UHPLC separations. The course includes details of simple tests that can be performed to help identify the cause of the problem as well as simple precautions that can be taken to prevent faults occurring in the first place.

  • Review of HPLC theory as it applies to troubleshooting and instrument maintenance
  • Operating principles of each module in a HPLC/UHPLC system
  • Performance qualification (PQ) is so important
  • Techniques for systematic problem solving and instrument maintenance
  • Preventing common hardware problems and method failures

Chromatographic Theory and Troubleshooting Principles

  • Causes of adsorptive interactions in HPLC
  • Chromatographic behaviour of acids and bases
  • Revision of chromatographic theory
  • Record-keeping
  • Tips for effective troubleshooting
  • Using information from system suitability tests
  • Tubing and extra-column dispersion

Pump Problems

  • Different pump types
  • Common problems with HPLC pumps
  • Flow rate and leak tests

Detector Problems

  • Common detector types and characteristics
  • Noise and drift tests
  • Mobile phase absorbance in UV detection
  • MS and evaporative detector-compatible mobile phases
  • Effect of flow-cell volume
  • Selecting appropriate data system settings

Mobile Phase and Gradient Mixing

  • Mobile phase filtration ” when and how”
  • Deaeration
  • Buffer selection
  • Mixing solvents ” miscibility and other considerations
  • Mobile phase stability
  • Gradient mixing and delay volume
  • Gradient performance qualification tests

Autosampler and Column Thermostat Problems

  • Autosampler types
  • Common autosampler problems
  • Causes of poor precision
  • Curing carryover
  • Column temperature effects

Column Problems

  • Typical problems/symptoms
  • Sample matrix effects
  • Injection solvent composition and volume injected
  • Column ageing
  • Causes of peak asymmetry and retention time shifts
  • Causes of high back pressure; sample filtration
  • Sample stability and analyte adsorption
  • Tests to troubleshoot problems with separation chemistry


  • Peak integration and smoothing
  • Advantages of second derivative plots
  • Common integration errors

Workshop: Troubleshooting Examples

Mark Powell - Analytical Services (Dissolution Testing, QbD, HPLC)

Mark Powell - Analytical Services (Dissolution Testing, QbD, HPLC)

Mark is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry with over thirty years' experience as a senior analytical chemist. He taught pharmaceutical analysis at the Liverpool John Moores University School of Pharmacy and Chemistry from 1997 to 2003 and was also active in research.

In 2003, he joined the newly-formed Quay Pharmaceuticals, a contract research and manufacturing organisation specialising in early-stage drug development, where he was responsible

for analytical development. Since 2010, as Quay"s Scientific Manager, Mark was involved more generally with drug development programmes and also established collaborations with a number of UK universities and instrument manufacturers. His work at Quay has resulted in a number of published papers and presentations at scientific conferences.

In 2013 Mark set up his own consultancy company and has since worked

for clients all over the world on both early-stage and late-stage drug

development projects. He has particular expertise in dissolution method development and chromatography, and is in demand as a trainer in topics ranging from pharmaceutical analysis to data integrity and technical report writing.

Scientists working with HPLC who need to improve their understanding of HPLC instrumentation and troubleshooting techniques.
HPLC validation and maintenance staff


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