Correction for Particle-Wall Interactions in the Separation of Colloids by Flow Field-Flow Fractionation

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In the characterization of materials by field-flow fractionation (FFF), the experienced analyst understands the importance of incorporating additives in the carrier liquid that minimize or eliminate interactions between the analyte and accumulation wall, particularly in aqueous systems. However, as FFF is applied to more difficult samples, such as those with high surface energies, it is increasingly difficult to find additives that completely eliminate particle−wall interactions. Furthermore, the analyst may wish to use specific conditions that preserve the high surface energy of particles, to study their interaction with other materials through their behavior in the FFF channel. With this in mind, Williams and co-workers developed a model that quantifies the effect of particle−wall interactions in FFF using an empirically determined interaction parameter. In this work, the model is evaluated for the application of flow FFF in carrier liquids of low ionic strength, where particle−wall interactions are magnified. The retention of particles ranging in size from 64 to 1000 nm is measured using a wide range of field strengths and retention levels. The model is found to be generally valid over the entire range, except for minor discrepancies at lower levels of retention. Although retention levels are dramatically affected by particle−wall interactions, the point of steric inversion (500 nm), where the size-based elution order reverses, is not affected. When particle−wall interactions are not accounted for, they lead to a bias in particle sizes calculated from standard retention theory of up to 70%. The model can also be used to refine the measurement of channel thickness, which is important for the accurate conversion of retention parameters to particle sizes. In this work, for example, errors in channel thickness led to systematic errors on the order of 10% in particle diameter.