Analytical separations are a cornerstone in chemical analysis. The development and application of new separation techniques and systems is the primary focus of the research conducted in the Harrison Lab.
To this end we work principally with one of the most versatile separation systems; capillary electrophoresis (CE). Unlike most other separation techniques CE separation can be adapted to an incredibly wide range of analytes. Ranging from inorganic ions to whole intact blood cells, a span of over four orders of magnitude in size, virtually all analytes can be separated and analyzed by CE.
Our work focuses on the utility and development of dynamic capillary coatings for CE separations. The need for dynamic coatings and an understanding of their function, is paramount in CE separations. The dynamic coatings allow for the control of the electroosmotic flow, a key factor in all CE separations whos magnitude and direction must frequently be altered to achieve a desired separation.
We are studying the function of various capillary coatings, with a focus on novel compounds with unique chemistries, such as phosphonium cations. In addition to studying the fundamentals of electroosmotic flow optimization we are applying our knowledge to the separation of analytes including small ions, proteins, nanoparticles and whole blood cells.
A particular interest lies in the separation of intact red blood cells. Through the manipulation of the capillary surface we are developing methods to separate red blood cells on the basis of their age. This will not only allow for greater investigation into the biochemistry of cellular aging but may also provide a useful tool for other diagnostic analyses, such as anti-doping efforts in sports.
Beyond CE separations we are also working to develop new column stationary phases for ion chromatography and working with polymer microfluidic devices for a wide range of analytical applications.