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Langmuir. 2006 Dec 19;22(26):11148-57.

Three-dimensional pore structure of chromatographic adsorbents from electron tomography.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA.


The pore structure of chromatographic adsorbents directly influences macromolecular partitioning and transport in chromatography. Quantitative structural characterization of chromatographic media has generally been performed in terms of the mean pore size or, at best, the pore size distribution (PSD), but more detailed information on, e.g., connectivity has been lacking. We have applied electron tomography, a 3D TEM technique that views a sample from multiple perspectives and allows reconstruction of the volumetric structure, to capture the internal details of microporous chromatographic media with nanometer-scale resolution. Visualization of reconstructions of three adsorbents, Toyopearl SP-650 C, SP-550 C, and CM Sepharose FF, provides thorough and direct information on the geometry and the interconnectivity of the pore network. The structures are qualitatively consistent with in situ AFM images, and quantitative data for the porosities and PSDs from the analysis of tomographic data agree reasonably well with inverse size-exclusion chromatography results. For a more straightforward representation of the networking and size features of the disordered pore space, a 3D thinning algorithm was used to derive pore skeletons and consequently quantitative data on distributions of local path lengths, widths, tortuosities, and connectivities. Such enriched structural information can be instrumental in more discriminate structural evaluation and construction of engineered pore models for the study of solute intraparticle transport.

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