Ion-exchange Phases Selectivity

Ion-exchange phases separate solutes on the basis of differences in ionic charge. Retention in ion-exchange chromatography is determined by the pH of the eluent, the nature and ionic strength of the buffer and temperature. Column efficiencies are lower than in reversed-phase HPLC. Eluents are normally aqueous but can contain some organic components.


Base Material

Both silica-based and polymer-based ion-exchangers are available. For the former, ionic species are attached to the silica surface, whereas for the latter the ion-exchange groups are distributed throughout the matrix. Silica-based materials maintain mechanical strength and higher efficiency advantage, whereas the polymer-based materials have greater pH stability.


Ion-exchange is used for the analysis of small ions but the key application area of the technique is the separation of biomolecules such as peptides, proteins, and oligonucleotides. Weak ion-exchangers are used for the analysis of inorganic ions, a technique more specifically termed ion chromatography.

Ion-Exchange Capacity

The exchange capacity of an ion-exchanger is an important measure of its retentivity (typically measured in milliequivalents per gram material). For any column, the packing density of the phase must also be taken into account. Wide pore materials will typically have lower ion-exchange capacities.

Cation-exchange phases contain negatively charged functional groups and retain positively charged cations. Conversely, anion-exchange phases retain negatively charged analytes by their positively charged functional groups. In the schematics below, the ion strength of the counterions can be adjusted to shift the equilibrium position and thus the retention times of the analytes.


Type Strength Nomenclature Typical Functionality pH Ionisation Range
Anion Weak WAX Amine Ionised at specific pH
Strong SAX Quaternary Ammonium Ionised over complete pH range


Strong SCX Sulphonic Acid
Weak WCX Carboxylic Acid Ionised at specific pH

GALAK Ion-exchange Phases

Phase Base Material Classification Particle Size Capacity pH Range
Bettsep® SP300/700 Polymer SCX 30um, 70um ≥130 mg Lysozyme 2-12
Bettsep® Q300/700 SAX 30um, 70um ≥130 mg Lysozyme 2-12
Sepromax® S40 SCX 40μm ≥ 60 mg/ml hlgG 2-12
Sepromax® CM40 WCX 40μm ≥80 mg Lysozyme 6-12
Sepromax® Q40 SAX 40μm ≥ 100 mg BSA 2-12
Sepromax® D40 WAX 40μm ≥ 100 mg BSA 2-9
GALAK ChromatographyAuthor

Tian Jing
Manager & Engineer in GALAK Chromatography. Master of Chemical Engineering.
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