Conventional operation of field-flow fractionation (FFF) systems involves carrying out the analysis at a constant flow of carrier; the flow is temporarily interrupted after injection of a sample in order to permit its equilibration under the applied field. Retention is calculated as the ratio of elution times for a non-retained species and the sample of interest, respectively. Such time-based retentions are only valid if the flow-rate is precisely known at all times during the run. The peristaltic pumps often used with FFF equipment are shown to have an output which varies unpredictably in time. Furthermore, initiation of flow after relaxation is shown to result in significant periods of transient behaviour while the system adjusts to the operating pressure. These and other variations in flow-rate can be eliminated as sources of error by basing the retention measurement on effluent weight, rather than on time. For this purpose, an electronic balance is interfaced with the system's computer, so that detector response/effluent weight data pairs are continuously monitored during the course of the FFF analysis. © 1991.
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