Ion Chromatography

What is Ion Chromatography? A Simple Explanation

The quality of liquid food products has always been a primary concern to ensure food safety for human health. Industrial waste products such as heavy metals may contaminate your water supply making valuable water resources to become undrinkable. High amounts of sugar and salt in liquid foods may also produce harmful effects on people. It is important to constantly monitor the quality of liquid food, especially if they are to be consumed by people. One way of determining fluid food quality is through ion chromatography.

What is Ion Chromatography?

Ion chromatography is a chemical process that can determine any presence of unwanted contaminants in liquids depending on their tendency to the ion exchanger. Ion chromatography, also known as ion-exchange chromatography, is based on the law that oppositely charged particles attract each other.

What are Ions?

Atoms that incur charges based on the addition or subtraction of electrons become ions. Atoms are usually neutral and have the same number of protons and electrons within them. However, different properties of particles may cause them to lose or gain electrons, which causes them to gain a charge. When an atom loses an electron, the number of protons within that atom becomes higher than the number of electrons. This difference in number causes the atom to become positively-charged (cations). On the other hand, an atom that gains more electrons than protons become negatively-charged (anions).

What Happens to Ions During Ion Chromatography?

There are a lot of technical buzzwords included during Ion Chromatography, and the process may be too technical to explain. However, if the process is described in layperson terms, the whole process is simple.

During the ion chromatography process, a liquid sample passes through an ion exchanger or ion exchange column. Ion exchanger columns are made up of resins made up of materials with charged functional groups. The charges of these functional groups will depend on what specific ion species are needed to be separated or identified. For instance, if there is a need to test the presence of negatively charged (anions) contaminants in the liquid sample, then the ion exchange column should be composed of mostly positively-charged functional groups to attract the contaminants. Some ion exchange columns have both positively-charged and negatively-charged functional groups to detect unwanted anions and cations contained in the sample simultaneously.

Basically, the liquid sample passes through the ion exchanger column. The charged contaminants found within the sample will then attach to the sides of the exchanger columns. After the sample passes through the exchanger, chemists will then determine the types and concentrations of the contaminants found within the sample.

Determining the Validity of the Results

Pure water is used in ion chromatography to determine the validity and confidence level of results. Water that is free from any impurities should not contain any ions whatsoever. When pure water passes through an ion-exchange column, there should be no ions binding to the column. Testing the ion exchange column first with pure unadulterated water will serve as the standard and will provide higher confidence in ion chromatography results. Pure water is also used in all aspects of ion chromatography, which includes the dilution of samples, preparing the standards, and the cleaning and rinsing of equipment.

Uses for Ion Chromatography

Since the contaminants found within liquid food are either cations or anions, ion chromatography may be used to determine the following:

  • The number of contaminants in drinking water
  • The chemical compositions of aquatic water ecosystems
  • The analysis of the types of proteins found in food
  • The amount of salt and sugar content in drinks

In summation, ion chromatography is an efficient and trusted way of determining the presence of contaminants in food and beverages.

This article is written by Alice Churchill, a copywriter and content strategist. She helps businesses stop playing around with content marketing and start seeing the tangible ROI. She loves writing as much as she loves the cake.

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