1.10 - 1.13 Chromatography

Did you know?
Chromatography gets its name ( Chroma="colour" in Greek) from the fact that mixtures which initially look like one uniform colour can be separated to produce many different colours. Not all chromatograms are coloured.

 Colour separation

Chromatography is another important separation technique.  Several different types of chromatography exist:

paper chromatography, thin layer chromatography, gas chromatography

All chromatography involves a mobile phase and a stationary phase.  The mobile phase moves through the stationary phase. The solutes which are more soluble (in the mobile phase) will travel faster through it than other less soluble solutes. This fact is used in chromatography to separate and identify the separate components in a mixture.

 Butterfly or chromatogram?

This chromatogram was made from five spots of ink, a filter paper and water.


 1.11 Activity 1. Separating spinach

 Students should:

1.11 understand how a chromatogram provides information about the composition of a mixture

1.12 understand how to use the calculation of Rf values to identify the components of a mixture

1.13 practical: investigate paper chromatography using inks/food colourings

Watch the video "separating spinach"and then the animation "identity check". 


 1.11 Activity 2. Running a chromatogram

​Watch the video and work through the animation and then answer the questions below.

Chromatography quiz


  1.11 Activity 2. Identity check

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Rf stands for retention factor. It gives a measure of how fast a given substance passes through the chromatogram. 

The Rf value of a given substance can help to identify it. 

Substances which dissolve better in the mobile phase will travel faster and have a higher retention factor.



  A different method

This method uses  sticks of chalk as the stationary phase and an alcohol/ water mixture as the mobile phase.  As with all chromatography the different components are separated because certain components in the mixture are more soluble than others. Watch the video and answer the questions.

  • What does this procedure show about the composition of the various inks used?
  • Why would it not be easy to obtain accurate  Rf values using a method like this? 
  • What is the solvent ( mobile phase ) used  in this method?