Solid Phase Extraction (SPE)


Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) is a broad term to describe the digital (step wise) separation technique where liquids contact sorbents, and organic compounds or ions in the liquid adsorb to the functional group(s) of the sorbent.

  • Sorbents are chosen to either retain the components of interest, or selectively release them into a strong liquid phase
  • SPE manufacturers commonly pack these sorbents into cartridges, well plates, dispersive tubes or other convenient devices
  • SPE is “digital” (step-wise) – Mobile phases are chosen so analytes are 100% adsorbed on the stationary phase, or 100% in the mobile phase
  • SPE is used for extraction, concentration and purification
  • Sorbents are available in many forms: Silica based, Polymeric, Alumina, and Carbon(s)
  • For all fields of application, silica based sorbents are the most common sorbents used
  • Silica based sorbents give the greatest number of stationary phase choices for extraction
  • Silica based sorbents are very rugged (Stable over a wide pH and solvent range)
  • Silica based sorbents are the most cost effective

Common SPE Applications: (Environmental, Pharmaceutical and Forensic)

  • Pharmaceutical compounds and metabolites in biological fluids
  • Drugs of abuse in biological fluids
  • Environmental pollutants in drinking and waste water
  • Pesticides and antibiotics in food/agricultural matrices
  • Desalting of proteins and peptides
  • Fractionation of lipids
  • Water and fat soluble vitamins

Related Topic:  QuEChERS Sample Preparation - It's Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged and Safe


SPE Steps:

  • Prepare sample
  • Condition sorbents
  • Apply (load) sample
  • Wash interferences
  • Elute analyte
  • Concentrate
  • Derivatize

Keys to SPE success:

  1. pH manipulation
  2. Choice of sorbent
  3. Choice of solvents

SPE Automation

  • Increased productivity - skilled technicians are focused more on tasks than manual labour shaking
  • Increased reproducibility - virtually eliminates technician to technician technique variability
  • Cost savings - decreases solvent usage, thereby decreasing waste disposal costs
  • Increased safety - technicians have less exposure to harmful solvents
  • Meet the most stringent regulatory requirements
Contact our Instrumentation Team for more information.



  • Solid phase extraction columns
    • Clean Screen: for forensic applications.
    • Clean-Up: for general sample prep
    • Enviro-Clean: for environmental applications
    • Styre Screen: polymeric columns for acids, neutrals and bases
    • XtrackT: Gravity-flow SPE columns for viscous samples such as equine urine, post-mortem blood and tissues, amniotic fluid, and meconium.
  • Buffer Pouches: 'Ready-to-use' phosphate and acetate buffer pouches. They are a convenient way to accurately prepare the necessary reagents, at the proper pH and concentration
  • Manifolds
  • Bulk Sorbents

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Restek SPE

  • General Purpose Cartridges:  normal phase, reversed phase, ion exchange, carbon, polymeric, sodium Sulphate
  • Application Specific Cartridges: environmental, pesticide residues, forensics
  • Bulk Sorbents
  • Manifolds and replacement parts

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Horizon SPE Automation Systems

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LCTech SPE Automation Systems

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UCT 2017 Sample Preparation Catalogue
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Or contact our customer service team to request a copy of literature code UCT01


UCT 2013 Solid Phase Extraction Environmental Catalogue
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or contact our customer service team to request a copy of literature code UCT07


- Positive Pressure Manifold - Part I and Part II - by UCT
- Clean Screen FASt - by UCT
- Oil and Grease Extraction (EPA 1664) - by UCT
- DEXTech Automated Sample Preparation for Dioxins and PCBs - by LCTech
- FREESTYLE Automated SPE - by LCTech
- FREESTYLE ThermELUTE Automated Mycotoxin Analysis - by LCTech

Application Notes
- Applications Using Copolymeric (Mixed Mode) SPE Phases
- Sample Preparation by Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) - by Restek
- Florisil® SPE Cleanup for Chlorinated Pesticides Analysis by Restek
- Improve GC Analysis of Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons Using Resprep® EPH Fractionation SPE Cartridges - by Restek
- Improve Results for Chlorinated Pesticides with Resprep® CarboPrep® SPE Cleanup - by Restek

We have hundreds of SPE Application Notes.
Contact our Technical Team for more information.


SPE Tips
- Tips for SPE with Large Volume Samples