Are SEC/GFC/GPC nomenclature interchangable?

Discussions about gel permeation chromatography / gel filtration chromatography / size exclusion chromatography

2 posts Page 1 of 1
Hello All,

I am so glad that I found this forum, as I am new to HPLC world.

I got confused by these nomenclature. Are SEC/GFC/GPC nomenclature interchangable? This question has been brought to my attention many times at work, so I did some research on this.

SEC: size exclusion chromatography;
GPC: gel permeation chromatography;
GFC: gel filtration chromatography.

Typically, when an aqueous solution is used as mobile phase, it is called gel filtration chromatography (GFC); while gel permeation chromatography (GPC) is used when an organic solvent is used as a mobile phase.

If the column is used for separating proteins/peptides, or water soluble polymers (PEG, dextran, pullulan, etc), it would be SEC/GFC column. If it is for synthetic polymers (e.g., polystyrene, glyceride, etc.), which only dissovle in oil-like organic solvent (e.g., THF), it would be our GPC column.

Correct me if I made wrong.
The terminonogy is something of a historical anomaly.

In the 1970's biochemists in Sweden developed a technique for separating proteins by size using cross-linked dextran gels and "physiological" buffers (moderate salt strength and pH). They called the technique "gel filtration chromatography".

More or less independently, polymer chemists at Dow Chemical in the US developed a technique for analyzing polymers by size using polystyrene-divinlybenzene resins and organic solvents. The called the technique "gel permeation chromatography".

In the 1980's, some column manufacturers began producing silca based columns which could potentially be used with either aqueous or organic mobile phases and coined the term "size exclusion chromatography" to sort of unify the two.

As far as I know, there are no "official" definitions. To this day, I can often guess a chromatographer's background by whether he or she calls the GFC, GPC, or SEC. A biochemist will probably call it GFC (even if it uses organic solvents); a polymer chemist will probably call it GPC (even if it uses aqueous buffers). The safest is "SEC"; that applies to both.
-- Tom Jupille
LC Resources / Separation Science Associates
+ 1 (925) 297-5374
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