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Chromatography explanation in simple words and experiment

Updated on August 12, 2012


Color Chromatography of Chlorophyll

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An example peaks of two different compounds separated by a chromatography equipment, and the amount detected by a detector and integrated by an intregator
An example peaks of two different compounds separated by a chromatography equipment, and the amount detected by a detector and integrated by an intregator | Source


Chromatography, (from Green chroma "color" and graphein "to write") is term used for different lab techniques used for separation of mixtures generally for the purpose of identification. There are a wide range of chromatography products and techniques that are used in the modern laboratories. In modern day science, Chromatography equipments, like Gas chromatography(GC) and HIgh pressure/performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) are essential components of laboratories whether it is Academic lab, FDA testing lab or a FBI crime lab.

No matter what kind of instrument is being used, the concept being used is pretty much the same. In most of the instruments used for chromatography, a sample, which is usually a complex mixture of different chemicals( usually with different physical properties, like boiling point, affinity, polarity, etc) pass through a medium(called a column, made up of wide range of materials, and found in different shape, size and type) at different speed due to the difference in properties. There is a different instrument(detector) that is usually used with the chromatography instruments to measure the amounts of each of the components separated.

Some of the most commonly used chromatography techniques/instruments are:

  • Paper Chromatography
  • Thin Layer Chromatography
  • Electrochromatography
  • Gas Chromatogrpahy (GC)
  • High performance liquid Chromatography(HPLC)
GC and LC are often combined with a highly sensitive detectors like a Mass Spectrometer, UV-VIS(Ultra violet-Visible Spectroscopy), FID(Flame ionization Detector), TCD(Thermal conductivity detector), etc.


Please, refer to the following video for an explanation of chromatography and a simple experiment to understand chromatograhphy.

Chromatography experiment


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