© 2016 Elsevier B.V. Trifluoracetic acid (TFA) added to the aqueous acetonitrile mobile phase induces some unexpected changes in the ionic component of retention in hydrophilic interaction separations when using Type B silica and amide-bonded silica columns. TFA use results in anion exchange properties which contrast with the cation exchange typically found with ammonium salt buffers. The significant cation exchange properties of silica hydride columns are also moderated by TFA. Similar behaviour was shown in a metal- free amide column operated on a system washed with a metal complexing agent, suggesting that adsorbed metal cations were not responsible for this anion exchange behaviour. Both suppression of silanol ionisation at low pH and ion pairing of bases with TFA could contribute to this effect. It is also possible that the column surface acquires some positive charges at the low pH of TFA. A surprising reversal of the properties of the columns back to predominately cation exchange behaviour was shown using methanesulfonic acid (MSA), which appears to be a stronger acid than TFA in high concentrations of acetonitrile. MSA maintains sufficient ionic strength in the mobile phase even at low concentrations, giving good peak shape, which could be useful for mass spectrometry detection. Besides giving different selectivity to TFA, MSA also gives different selectivity to that of ammonium salt buffers, suggesting it may be useful in manipulating the selectivity of a separation. Similar changes to the selectivity with TFA could be achieved by adding neutral methylsulfonate salts to the TFA mobile phase. While it is possible that methylsulfonate ions are retained on the stationary phase surface, experiments using ion pair reagents of opposite charge yielded the same results as MSA salts. It therefore seems more likely that the higher ionic strength of these solutions negates the influence of charges that may be formed in TFA solutions. Ion pairing effects with MSA are expected to be limited.
McCalley, D. V. (2017). Effect of mobile phase additives on solute retention at low aqueous pH in hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 1483, 71-79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chroma.2016.12.035