Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 407, Issue 17, pp 4927–4948 | Cite as

Stimuli-responsive materials in analytical separation

  • Rosa A. Lorenzo
  • Antonia M. Carro
  • Angel Concheiro
  • Carmen Alvarez-LorenzoEmail author


This review focuses on the fundamentals of stimuli-responsive materials and their applications to three common separation techniques, namely extraction, chromatography, and electrophoresis. Although still little investigated, materials that switch their affinity for the analyte on and off as a function of tiny changes in physical and biochemical variables offer relevant advantages for analyte extraction, concentration, and separation. Temperature and/or pH-responsive polymers in the form of chains or networks, which are dispersed in the sample as free entities or after being grafted onto beads (which may incorporate magnetic cores), enable quantitative capture and/or elution of the analyte under mild conditions and without needing organic solvents. Regarding liquid-chromatography separation, responsive stationary phases enable the implementation of “all-in-water” procedures in which retention times are modulated by means of temperature or pH gradients. Other stimuli that can be externally applied, for example light or magnetic fields, can also be used for efficient extraction or separation of the target substance without altering the composition of the sample matrix. Moreover, stimuli-responsiveness enables straightforward recycling of solid and/or stationary phases for a prolonged lifetime. Improved understanding of the phase transitions of stimuli-responsive materials and design of suitable formats for analytical applications should enable wider and more successful application of stimuli-responsive materials in analytical separations.

Graphical Abstract

Responsive materials that reversibly switch their affinity for the analyte on and off offer relevant advantages for analyte extraction, concentration, and separation


Capillary electrophoresis HPLC Extraction (SPE) Stimuli-responsive stationary phases Green chromatography MIPs 



Acrylic acid




Aminoethyl methacrylate




2-Acrylamido-2-methylpropanesulfonic acid


(3-Acrylamidopropyl)trimethylammonium chloride


Atom-transfer radical polymerization




Butyl methacrylate


Bovine serum albumin




2-(Dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate




Dimethyl sulfoxide


Dispersive solid-phase extraction


Electroosmotic flow


Hydrophilic-interaction chromatography


High-performance liquid chromatography


In-tube solid-phase microextraction


Lower critical solution temperature


Methacrylic acid


4-[(4-Methacryloyloxy)phenylazo]benzenesulfonic acid


2-(2-Methoxyethoxy)ethyl methacrylate


Molecularly imprinted polymer


4-[(4-Methacryloyloxy)phenylazo]benzoic acid


Non-imprinted polymer


N-Isopropyl acrylamide


Oligo(ethylene glycol)






Reversed-phase HPLC


Solid-phase extraction


Solid-phase microextraction




3,3ʹ,5,5ʹ-Tetrabromobisphenol A




Trimethylolpropane trimethacrylate


Upper critical solution temperature


4-Vinylphenylboronic acid





This work was financially supported by MICINN Spain (SAF2011-22771), Xunta de Galicia (CN 2012/045), and FEDER.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosa A. Lorenzo
    • 1
  • Antonia M. Carro
    • 1
  • Angel Concheiro
    • 2
  • Carmen Alvarez-Lorenzo
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Química Analítica, Nutrición y Bromatología, Facultad de QuímicaUniversidad de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Farmacia y Tecnología Farmacéutica, Facultad de FarmaciaUniversidad de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain

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