Size Exclusion Chromatography ( SEC )

Size-exclusion chromatography (SEC), also known as gel permeation chromatography or gel filtration chromatography, separates particles on the basis of molecular size (actually by a particle's Stokes radius). It is generally a low resolution chromatography and thus it is often reserved for the final, "polishing" step of the purification. It is also useful for determining the tertiary structure and quaternary structure of purified proteins. SEC is used primarily for the analysis of large molecules such as proteins or polymers. SEC works by trapping these smaller molecules in the pores of a particle. The larger molecules simply pass by the pores as they are too large to enter the pores. Larger molecules therefore flow through the column quicker than smaller molecules, that is, the smaller the molecule, the longer the retention time.

This technique is widely used for the molecular weight determination of polysaccharides. SEC is the official technique (suggested by European pharmacopeia) for the molecular weight comparison of different commercially available low-molecular weight heparins.