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Assessment of Ultra High Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography as a Separation Technique for the Analysis of Seized Drugs: Applicability to Synthetic Cannabinoids

NCJ Number
Journal of Chromatography A Volume: 1440 Dated: May 2016 Pages: 201-211
Date Published
April 2016
11 pages

The recent development of modern methods for ultra high performance supercritical fluid chromatography (UHPSFC) has great potential for impacting the analysis of seized drugs. In the separation of synthetic cannabinoids, the technique has the potential to produce superior resolution of positional isomers and diastereomers. In order to demonstrate this potential, the current study examined the capability of UHPSFC for the analysis of two different groups of synthetic cannabinoids.


The first group was a mixture of 22 controlled synthetic cannabinoids, and the second group included JWH018 and nine of its non-controlled positional isomers The clear superiority of UHPSFC over other separation techniques was demonstrated, in that it was capable of near baseline separation of all 10 positional isomers using a chiral column. In total, the study examined four achiral columns, including Acquity UPC2 Torus 2-PIC, Acquity UPC2 Torus Diol, Acquity UPC2 Torus DEA and Acquity UPC2 Torus 1-AA (1.7 ƒÊm 3.0 ~ 100 mm), and three chiral columns, including Acquity UPC2 Trefoil AMY1, Acquity UPC2 Trefoil CEL1 and Acquity UPC2 Trefoil CEL2 (2.5 ƒÊm 3.0 ~ 150 mm), using mobile phase compositions that combined carbon dioxide with methanol, acetonitrile, ethanol or isopropanol modifier gradients. Detection was performed using simultaneous PDA UV detection and quadrupole mass spectrometry. The orthogonality of UHPSFC, GC and UHPLC for the analysis of these compounds was demonstrated using principal component analysis. Overall, this new technique should prove useful in the analysis and detection of seized drug samples, and will be a useful addition to the compendium of methods for drug analysis. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: April 1, 2016