Roughing with Carbon

In the early days of the antibiotic industry, adsorption on carbon was a primary method of purification. Filtered fermentation broth was passed through carbon columns, and the product was eluted from the carbon with solutions such as acidified ethanol or acetone. The yields were terrible, but good alternatives had not been found for getting the desired compounds into solutions of higher concentrations and purities. Most antibiotics are now purified with either ion exchange or extraction into an immiscible solvent as the primary step. Although unattractive, adsorption on carbon is a last resort when nothing else is practical. It is unselective and low in capacity but provides a roughing step to get the purification scheme started.

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