A Brief Introduction of SPE and SPE Cartridge

Solid phase extraction

SPE is a technology for separating and concentrating analytes from complex solutions, and it has been applied to many industries:
* Sample preparation for heavy metal analysis in groundwater
* Remove food and feed digestion solution impurities for better analysis of transition metals
* Remove impurities from blood and serum solutions for better analysis of heavy metal elements
* Concentrate or remove minerals from seawater samples
* Pre-concentration of water samples with SPE to increase the sensitivity of XRF
* Reduce the weight of the water sample for easy carrying (just carry the small cartridge with the selected sample).

Key Steps in SPE

  1. Conditioning:
    • The SPE cartridge is initially conditioned with a specific solvent to prepare the sorbent material for the sample.
  2. Loading (Sample Application):
    • The sample, often dissolved in a solvent, is applied to the SPE cartridge. Analytes of interest selectively interact with the sorbent and are retained.
  3. Washing:
    • Unwanted matrix components are washed away using one or more solvents, leaving the target analytes bound to the sorbent.
  4. Elution:
    • The analytes are then eluted from the sorbent using a solvent that disrupts the interactions between the analytes and the sorbent. The eluate contains the concentrated analytes.

Cartridge capacity

The capacity of the SPE cartridge refers to the adsorption amount of the SPE cartridge packing. For silica-based SPE cartridges, the capacity is generally 1 to 5 mg/100 mg, that is, the cartridge capacity is 1%~5% of the mass of the packing. The capacity of the bonded silica ion exchange adsorbent packing is expressed in meq/g, that is, the capacity per gram of the filler is X milliequivalent. The capacity of such packing is usually between 0.5 to 1.5 meq/g.

SPE cartridge features

1. The particle size is highly uniform, the surface area and pore size are reasonable, and the optimized surface functional groups are highly stable in chemical properties.
2. High load, using less adsorbent and solvent, the result is more concentrated.
3. It is easy to use and reliable with high selectivity, good reproducibility, and high accuracy.

Reversed Phase SPE Cartridges
Diol SPE Cartridges.png

There are many SPE cartridge packing types: C18, C8, SCX NH2, CN, silica gel, alumina, Florisil, diatomaceous earth, polyamide, activated carbon, Diol (diol-based), graphitized carbon black, XAD-2, GDX- 403, HLB, graphitized carbon black/amino filler, macroporous adsorption resin, and the like.


HAWACH is able to provide SPE cartridges and cartridges with different sorbents.
Format: 100mg/1ml, 60mg/3ml, 200mg/3ml, 250mg/3ml, 500ml/3ml, 500mg/6ml, 1000mg/6ml, 2g/6ml, 2g/12ml.

Though C8 is similar to C18, it has a short carbon chain with weak reservation than C18 to a non-polar compound. If the analyte has too strong a reservation on C18, then C8 can be the choice. In the meantime, as C8 has a shorter carbon chain, it can’t cover the Residual Silanol Groups on the surface of silica gel, as it has stronger reservation than C18 to polar compound.
HAWACH can supply SPE cartridge adapters too.


The simplest SPE can be done manually, by attaching a syringe to the upper end of the SPE and extruding the liquid from the extraction cartridge by squeezing the syringe. Alternatively, a batch sample may be subjected to an SPE operation using a positive-pressure or negative-pressure SPE apparatus. With the development of technology and the increasing number of samples, more and more analytical laboratories began to use automated SPE, especially multi-channel SPE to process batch samples.


1. Separation of peptides, drugs, and metabolites in biological matrix.
2. Extraction of monosaccharides, polysaccharides, steroids, and cholesterol.
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