The separation of nine N,N'-dialkylimidazolium-based ionic liquids (ILs) by an isocratic hydrophilic interaction high-performance liquid chromatographic method using an unmodified silica column was investigated. The chosen analytical conditions using a 90:10 acetonitrile-ammonium formate buffer mobile phase on a high-purity, unmodified silica column were found to be efficient, robust, and sensitive for the determination of ILs in a variety of solutions. The retention window (k' = 2-11) was narrower than that of previous methods, resulting in a 7-min runtime for the nine IL homologues. The lower limit of quantification of the method, 2-3 μmol L(-1), was significantly lower than those reported previously for HPLC-UV methods. The effects of systematically modifying the IL cation alkyl chain length, column temperature, and mobile-phase water and buffer content on solute retention were examined. Cation exchange was identified as the dominant retention mechanism for most of the solutes, with a distinct (single methylene group) transition to a dominant partitioning mode at the highest solute polarity.
Keywords: Aqueous normal phase; HPLC; Ionic liquid determination; Mixed-mode retention; Rapid separation.
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