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Module FXX-3201:
Separation Science

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Vera Fitzsimmons-Thoss

Overall aims and purpose

The module addresses chromatography as the means to separate mixtures in synthetic and analytical chemistry. Chromatography is applied in different branches of chemistry in order to isolate sufficient quantities of a compound for further use or analytically to quantify a range of analytes using instrumental chromatography. The underlying principles of chromatography will be explained. The analytical process, as applied for the quantification of specific analytes in complex matrices will be explained. In addition, standard chromatography instruments will be detailed (HPLC-UV and GC-MS) and their application as reported in the scientific literature, standard methods and application notes will be interrogated. The module aims to equip the student with the knowledge on separating mixtures and its application in synthetic and analytical chemistry.

Course content

Block 1 Lecturer Vera Fitzsimmons-Thoss (2h lecture and 4 h interactive): This block will look at the analytical process and data evaluation as the definition of the separation challenge and the information to be obtained are critical for experimental planning using chromatography. Block 2 Lecturer Martina Lahmann (2h lecture and 4 h interactive): This block addresses theory and principles of separation of mixtures using chromatography, including chromatography columns and application to the separation of reaction mixtures. Application for thin layer chromatography (TLC) and translation to preparative chromatography will be addressed in the interactive sessions. Block 3 Lecturer Vera Fitzsimmons-Thoss (2h lecture and 4 h interactive): The third block addresses instrumental chromatography, specifically gas chromatography (GC) in relation to instrumental design, stationary phases and parameters to improve separation and speed. Of particular importance are injectors and detectors, especially mass spectrometry (MS). Other detectors and their applications will be described in the interactive sessions. Block 4 Lecturer Vera Fitzsimmons-Thoss (2h lecture and 4 h interactive): The forth block focusses on liquid chromatography (HLPC) with instrument design, column and mobile phases, separation strategies and different types of detectors. It will then address chromatography method descriptions as published in the scientific literature, manufacturers appication notes and standard operating procedures. The application of chromatography in food, clinical or environmental analysis will be thus be addressed to highlight the broad application of the technique in industry, healthcare and public services.

Assessment Criteria


Excellent (>70%). Knowledge base is extensive and extends well beyond the work covered in the programme. Conceptual understanding is outstanding. Problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature are solved with efficiency and accuracy; problem-solving procedures are adjusted to the nature of the problem. Experimental work are exemplary and show a through analysis and appraisal of experimental results, with appropriate suggestions for improvement. Performance in transferable skills is generally very good.


Threshold (40%). Knowledge and understanding of the content covered in the course is basic; Problems of a routine nature are generally adequately solved; Standard laboratory experiments are usually carried out with reasonable success though significance and limitations of experimental data and/or observations may not be fully recognised; Transferable skills are at a basic level.


Good (~60%). Knowledge base covers all essential aspects of subject matter dealt with in the programme and shows good evidence of enquiry beyond this. Conceptual understanding is good. Problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature are solved in a logical manner; solutions are generally correct and acceptable. Experimental work is carried out in a reliable and efficient manner, with a good appreciation of data analysis shown in write-ups. Performance in transferable skills is sound and shows no significant deficiencies.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to demonstrate that chromatography can be applied to different quantities of sample utilising different types of chromatography (TLC, column chromatography, HPLC, GLC) for qualitative and quantitative applications.

  2. Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the theory of chromatographic separation (resolution).

  3. Students will be able to apply the analytical process using chromatography

  4. Students will be able to compare and contrast the different professional information sources for analytical methods: Standard Operating Procedures, application notes, standard methods and scientific literature.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
retrieval of chromatography information from scientific literature 50
Separation Science 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Each block of six hours will contain a lecture component of 2 hours and an interactive component for the other 4 hours.

Private study

The students will review the material through use of an associated textbook, web-based material and scientific papers supplied by teaching staff. Students will also be asked to critically evaluate a scientific paper its use of quality control in analytical chemistry and application of chromatography (assessment 1).


There will be a 2 hour interactive session and a 2 h tutorial in each teaching block where the taugh material will be reinforced using a range of resources such chromatograms, TLC plates, scientific papers for discussion and application of taught principles.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.

Subject specific skills

  • CC4 The ability to recognise and analyse problems and plan strategies for their solution
  • CC6 Skills in communicating scientific material and arguments
  • CC8 The ability to adapt and apply methodology to the solution of unfamiliar problems
  • CP7 The ability to interpret and explain the limits of accuracy of their own experimental data in terms of significance and underlying theory
  • CP8 The ability to select appropriate techniques and procedures
  • CP11 The ability to use an understanding of the uncertainty of experimental data to inform the planning of future work
  • PS1 Communication skills, covering both written and oral communication with a variety of audiences
  • PS3 Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information
  • CC1 the ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential facts,concepts,principles and theories relating to theSubject areasCovered in theirProgramme
  • PS7 Basic interpersonal skills, relating to the ability to interact with other people and to engage in teamworking
  • SK2 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of fundamental physicochemical principles with the ability to apply that knowledge to the solution of theoretical and practical problems
  • SK3 Gain knowledge of a range of inorganic and organic materials
  • SK5 Demonstrate an understanding of the qualitative and quantitative aspects of chemical metrology and the importance of traceability
  • SK9 Read and engage with scientific literature


Resource implications for students

I have suggested this book as an e-book to be held in the library.

Reading list

Chromatography: Basic Principles, Sample Preparations and Related Methods, authors Elsa Lundanes, Léon Reubsaet, Tyge Greibrokk, publisher Wiley

Courses including this module