ChromView Article

Related Sites Contact Us


PR LIMA Administrator PR SOPmanage PR - LIMA Version 4 ISO 9001 Awarded ChromView Article ReCAP 4000 700th Registration Worldwide BLIPS

Chromview - A Commom Platform for Storage, Retrieval and Exchange 
of HPLC Methodology and Chromatograms

Technical Article

10 February 2000

It is incredible to think that the first aircraft was developed as recently as 1903, and today modern airliners are designed, built and virtually controlled by computers. In that same year the first chromatography was developed. Yet today as we approach the 21st century, if we are honest with ourselves, we as chromatographers are still thumbing through column manufacturers catalogues for documented methods, then we modify or refine them by hit and miss techniques.

Despite chromatography data integration having almost completed its migration from the chart recorder and integrator, to the PC Data Station and LIMS environment, one glaring omission of even the latest data systems is the inability to archive chromatography methodology in a standard database format which can be exchanged, stored, viewed and searched by anybody regardless of who manufactured the integration package or system hardware. Computers were handling chromatography data long before the PC became common in many offices or homes. So why is it I can send a document, spreadsheet or multimedia presentation to another PC user to view, but I cant send a chromatogram or application note electronically.

This situation exists probably for any permutation of three reasons.

Firstly computerisation in chromatography has - quite rightly - focused on improving laboratory efficiency through obtaining better analytical accuracy and higher throughput of samples while consuming less of the analysts time.

The second reason is perhaps that major chromatography manufacturers appear to be. playing a game of technological leapfrog with no set rules or boundaries. Can you imagine the chaos if Heathrow airport changed its radar system and software every year and all airlines played catch-up ?

The third reason is that software development and support is expensive and not highly profitable to instrument manufacturers. Some would secretly admit that they would be happy to pull out of the software market if it was not for the fact that the software is needed to sell their instruments !

In short, developing non-instrument-related software is not high on instrument manufacturers agendas!

So where does this leave the method developer who wants to search for a method a colleague developed two years ago? Where does this leave the analyst who needs to start developing a new method from scratch ? Where does leave a methods development department who want to share their work with QC department or with a different site of the same company. Integration software can not address this issue. Even if both sites have the same manufacturers data handling they may be able to read each others methodology but it is still impractical to search through endless data files to find a method.

HPLC column manufacturers, in general, have always been generous with publishing and sharing their tried and tested methods with the world at large. Call me Mr Cynical, but this may be something to do with the fact that it is sells their columns. Even as the column manufacturers start to move their hard copy methodology archives towards an electronic format, the probability is high that most of them will develop their own totally incompatible databases, on CD-ROM. The end result will be that the poor old chromatographer has to browse through stacks of CD-ROM’s instead of catalogues. Many people already believe its quicker to thumb a catalogue than fumble with a CD-ROM , then wait till it loads the program and data. What’s more you can probably guarantee that these programs will not allow you to add your own developed methods to the database or import methods from any other manufacturers database. It’s not a great solution for the chromatographer !

So what does the chromatographer really, really want ?

Storing Application Methodology

The database must be capable of storing all aspects of the chromatographic methodology, Analytes, Matrix, Column, Solvents, Gradient, Detection, Validation Notes, references etc. A relational database is required for storing these details efficiently and in a relational manner.

Depicting Chromatograms 

The chromatogram must be stored in the database as a vectored image, either an OLE object, or a metafile using Windows Clipboard cut-and-paste. Almost all Windows data-stations support copy to clipboard and many data stations allow export of single data files as AIA (Andi) files. AIA files can now be converted to OLE objects which are extremely efficient in file size (eg 30K). One of the major obstacles to storing the chromatogram in a PC database is the picture file size. This must be minimised. Scanned chromatograms are not a good option due to large file size (eg 300-500K) and the inability to resize the non-vectored image. Large picture file size are the most common reason for current databases appearing on CD-ROM.


It is the purpose of all databases to store data. However it is only a good database which retrieve the required data easily and present it in a manner which is useful to the user.

Chromatographers have differing requirements to search for methods. Some may prefer to browse all applications containing a named analyte while others may wish to find an application containing one analyte in the presence of other named analytes. Pharmaceutical method developers often do not even have the luxury of a named compound, and chemical structure, sub-structure or smile string may be the preferred method of locating relevant applications.

Data Entry

To be a useful tool to any method developer the database must permit entry of the chromatographers own methods. This is where the CD-ROM approach used by some manufacturers falls down. Such databases are closed systems and as such are often consigned to the shelf where the catalog used to reside.

Import of Data

If the chromatographer has the ability to write methods to the database, he must be able to import new methods from other departments or sites within his company, and other sources outwith his company, for example column manufacturers. It is not sufficient to replace an old database with a new version since any data the chromatographer has added will be overwritten.

Hard Disk Storage

The chromatographer needs a single tool which is stored on his hard disk and is capable of storing his own developed methods alongside other (imported) methods. The data may reside on a local PC or a network server, and should be readily available to use. Scouring multiple CD-ROMs should not be an acceptable solution with today’s technology.

Data Sharing

Unbelievable as it may sound, I personally know of one large pharmaceutical company where analysts in one lab were trying to develop a method which had been developed the previous week by colleagues in a lab at the other end of the corridor. Furthermore, how many analysts know there is a method somewhere, but can not find it amongst the mountains of accumulated hard copy and gigabytes of raw data ! Or maybe the method was developed by somebody who left the company, who was it, where is the method stored ? We’ve all witnessed at least one of these scenarios, I’m sure! The solution to these types of problems is a shared database. Current database technology allows data tables and database engines to be installed separated. By storing the database tables on a central server and installing the engine at PC terminals, all chromatographers can access, add, search and retrieve the data. By using database security or modifying the database engine certain users can have limited access - for example read only access- while others can read and add data.

Operating Platform

The overwhelming majority of chromatography operating systems are PC based. The operating platform should therefor be, ideally, Microsoft based, or Microsoft compliant and or compatible. It should operate on Windows, Windows 95 and Windows NT platforms. There should e a common upgrade route betwwen these platforms. It should be capable of running on a stand alone PC and also it must also be able to run over common network protocols in both local area and wide area network. Again an upgrade from single user to network must be available.

To Summarise - the ideal solution is a database

  • · which can store application methodology
  • · which can store and display chromatogram object
  • · which accepts chromatograms from any PC datastation
  • · that can search and retrieve by component names
  • · that can store and preferably search chemical structures
  • · that permits the addition of users own methods
  • · that permits the importing of more data
  • · that lives on a hard disk or server, not a CD-ROM
  • · that allows export of methods to be imported/viewed by others
  • · which can be networked using LAN or WAN
  • · Is Microsoft compliant and operate on Windows, Windows 95 or Windows NT

The Solution 

A solution to meet the above chromatographers’ specifications clearly can not be produced overnight! From experience we know it takes about three years to develop and refine such a database system. The good news is we started in 1994 and we now have a solution to meet the above is proposed below.

This solution is written in Microsoft Access. This means that it is 100% Microsoft Windows compliant and is based on a database engine written by the worlds largest and most respected software company. Microsoft have documented upgrade routes from 16-bit engines to 32-bit database engines and indeed both may be accessing the same database tables simultaneously. It is also proven as a network solution and can be easily upgraded from PC to network versions. Access Run-Time is available from licenced Microsoft Solution Developers which means that the user does not need to have a licence for Access.

The program is available as in four versions

1. Chromatography Application Methods database - PC Version - named FastCAM 2™;

2. Network Version - named FastCAM™ Network

3. Chromatogram Viewer Only - Named ChromView™

4. Data Library of Columns and Application Profiles - Named ReCAP™

· An Optional Program to convert AIA files to OLE is also available -ChromMerge™;*


1. FastCAM 2

FastCAM provides facility to enter methodology, store chromatograms, store chemical structures search, review and print all methodology. It also permits import of other FastCAM databases and export of methods to other users who may import them.

Search facilities include : Application title search, Component name search, multiple component name search, ChromSearch and ChemSearch (locate on chemical functional groups)

2. FastCAM Network

This provides all the facilities of FastCAM for network users. All users connect to the same data tables allowing access to shared data .

3. ChromViewer

This provides a low cost option for users who need to view methods but are not interested in adding their own data. This can be used on a PC or network. Import facility allows more applications to be added but there is no write or export facility. Possible uses are to view applications released by column manufacturers in this format , or as a read only teminal on a network.

4. ReCAP

This provides 5500 applications with chromatograms and methodology, an index of 20000 components plus an integrated database of 1800 column materials. Data independantly compiled from applications sourced from column manufacturers, ensuring proven methods ta on the latest column technologies.

Both these databases are available built into ChromViewer or FastCAM. Planned updates will import into the original programs.

Where can users obtain applications for their databases ?

There are many potential sources to obtain data for your methodology database.

  • 1. Use FastCAM to enter your own data
  • 2. Export/Import facilities allow you to exchange your data :
  •     with other departments sites of your company,
  •     with users groups
  •     through e-mail
  • 3. Limathon hope to sponsor a users ‘swap-shop’ on the internet shortly
  • 4. Limathon have 5500 applications already on file which can be imported
  • 5. Limathon can provide a confidential service to produce vector image databases from your archived hard copy methodology
  • 6. Several column manufacturers in USA, Europe, and Japan have already expressed interest or have already committed to having databases produced in ChromView format for royalty free distribution.  




Windows and Access are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation

ChromMerge is a registered trademark of LC Resources Inc

FastCAM 2, ChromView, ReCAP are trademarks of Limathon Limited

Background Information

Gordon Hamilton worked in pharmaceutical / chemical analytical and method development labs (Glaxo, BACo, Johnson Matthey) for ten years before working with LDC, Ciba Corning (Jasco), Spectra Physics, and Capital HPLC in Sales and Marketing roles in HPLC. He also spent a year with a chemical reaction database company where he learned database development before forming his own company in 1994. Limathon Limited produces chromatography databases for HPLC Column Management, HPLC Reference, HPLC Application Storage, Instrument Maintenance and Calibration Scheduling, which are in use in most major pharmaceutical companies in the USA and Europe.

For More Information Contact:

ADS-Limathon Limited
3 Ringwood Road, Sheffield, S20 2DG, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 114 251 0820
FAX: +44 (0) 114 247 5771

Related Sites Contact Us

ADS-Limathon is an ISO 9001 Accredited company
Copyright © 2002-2008 ADS-Limathon Limited

Last modified: August 20, 2008