Ionic liquids in chromatographic and electrophoretic techniques: toward additional improvements in the separation of natural compounds
Due to their unique properties, in recent years, ionic liquids (ILs) have been largely investigated in the field of analytical chemistry. Particularly during the last sixteen years, they have been successfully applied in the chromatographic and electrophoretic analysis of value-added compounds extracted from biomass. Considering the growing interest in the use of ILs in this field, this critical review provides a comprehensive overview on the improvements achieved using ILs as constituents of mobile or stationary phases in analytical techniques, namely in capillary electrophoresis and its different modes, in high performance liquid chromatography, and in gas chromatography, for the separation and analysis of natural compounds. The impact of the IL chemical structure and the influence of secondary parameters, such as the IL concentration, temperature, pH, voltage and analysis time (when applied), are also critically addressed regarding the achieved separation improvements. Major conclusions on the role of ILs in the separation mechanisms and the performance of these techniques in terms of efficiency, resolution and selectivity are provided. Based on a critical analysis of all published results, some target-oriented ILs are suggested. Finally, current drawbacks and future challenges in the field are highlighted. In particular, the design and use of more benign and effective ILs as well as the development of integrated (and thus more sustainable) extraction–separation processes using IL aqueous solutions are suggested within a green chemistry perspective.