Designing Safer Solvents to Replace Methylene Chloride for Liquid Chromatography Applications Using Thin-Layer Chromatography as a Screening Tool

Sharma A, Yu E, Morose G, Nguyen DT, Chen W-T (2021). “Designing Safer Solvents to Replace Methylene Chloride for Liquid Chromatography Applications Using Thin-Layer Chromatography as a Screening Tool.” Separations 8(10):172.

Abstract: Methylene chloride, commonly known as dichloromethane (DCM), is a widely used chemical for chromatography separation within the polymer, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. With the ability to effectively solvate heterocyclic compounds, and properties including a low boiling point, high density, and low cost, DCM has become the solvent of choice for many different applications. However, DCM has high neurotoxicity and is carcinogenic, with exposure linked to damage to the brain and the central nervous system, even at low exposure levels. This research focuses on sustainability and works towards finding safer alternative solvents to replace DCM in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The research was conducted with three active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) widely used in the pharmaceutical industry: acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) was used to investigate if an alternative solvent or solvent blend could show comparable separation performance to DCM. The use of the Hansen Solubility Parameter (HSP) theory and solubility testing allowed for the identification of potential alternative solvents or solvent blends to replace DCM. HSP values for the three APIs were experimentally determined and used to identify safer solvents and blends that could potentially replace DCM. Safer solvents or binary solvent blends were down-selected based on their dissolution power, safety, and price. The down-selected solvents (e.g., ethyl acetate) and solvent blends were further evaluated using three chemical hazard classification approaches to find the best fitting nonhazardous replacement to DCM. Several safer solvent blends (e.g., mixtures composed of methyl acetate and ethyl acetate) with adequate TLC performance were identified. Results from this study are expected to provide guidance for identifying and evaluating safer solvents to separate APIs using chromatography.

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