3D printed titanium micro-bore columns containing polymer monoliths for reversed-phase liquid chromatography
The potential of 3D selective laser melting (SLM) technology to produce compact, temperature and pressure stable titanium alloy chromatographic columns is explored. A micro bore channel (0.9 mm I.D. × 600 mm long) was produced within a 5 × 30 × 30 mm titanium alloy (Ti-6Al-4V) cuboid, in form of a double handed spiral. A poly(butyl methacrylate-co-ethyleneglycoldimethacrylate) (BuMA-co-EDMA) monolithic stationary phase was thermally polymerised within the channel for application in reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. The prepared monolithic column was applied to the liquid chromatographic separation of intact proteins and peptides. Peak capacities of 69-76 (for 6-8 proteins respectively) were observed during isothermal separation of proteins at 44 °C which were further increased to 73-77 using a thermal step gradient with programmed temperature from 60 °C to 35 °C using an in-house built direct-contact heater/cooler platform based upon matching sized Peltier thermoelectric modules. Rapid temperature gradients were possible due to direct-contact between the planar metal column and the Peltier module, and the high thermal conductivity of the titanium column as compared to a similar stainless steel printed column. The separation of peptides released from a digestion of E.coli was also achieved in less than 35 min with ca. 40 distinguishable peaks at 210 nm.