Paper Chromatography: What Is It and How Does It Work?


Chromatography is a method used to separate mixtures into their parts or components. It can be used in various analyses of organic and inorganic compounds and is often performed by chemists to study unknown substances in mixtures.

All chromatography techniques consist of a mobile phase, the resulting substance once the mixture is dissolved, and a stationary phase, the liquid or solid where the tested substance is transported.

Paper Chromatography is just one out of the many chromatographic techniques that are used by researchers. As its name suggests, this technique uses strips or sheets of absorbent paper, which act as the stationary phase.

You may not realize it but you may have already performed paper chromatography in chemistry as it is one of the simplest and most inexpensive methods used to separate chemical substances.

If you’re unfamiliar with paper chromatography and are interested in learning more about it, you can find several online courses that will take you through the essentials of using the technique.

Read on to get a glimpse of how paper chromatography works, what applications you can derive from it, and the advantages of using this method over the others.

How Does Paper Chromatography Work?

Paper chromatography can be done with either the adsorption or partition principle, though the latter is more commonly used.

In partition chromatography, the substances are distributed between liquid phases, where the stationary phase is the moisture coming from the water found in the filter paper’s pores. The mobile phase then refers to the organic solvents or buffers that pass through the paper.

You can begin the paper chromatography process by choosing a suitable development and filter paper. Radial paper chromatography is one of the easier developments, but it ultimately depends on the mixture you are trying to analyze. The appropriate filter paper, on the other hand, will be based on your sample quality.

Once you have your tools in place, you can then prepare your sample by dissolving it in a solvent to be used in the mobile phase. Using a capillary tube, you will spot the samples then immerse your paper into the mobile phase. After the chromatogram is developed, you can air dry it and start investigating the sample spots.

Applications of Paper Chromatography

Paper Chromatography can be used in a variety of studies to get a more in-depth understanding of substances and their components. One of the most common applications would be to separate color pigments, particularly among plants.

Paper chromatography can also be used as an isolation or purification technique or to check for the purification of substances like pharmaceutical products.

As for more familiar applications, paper chromatography can be used to inspect cosmetics and each of their ingredients to see whether they are safe for use. Likewise, this technique will be useful in examining food and beverages to see if they contain any contaminants or harmful ingredients.

Generally, paper chromatography is a widely-used technique that can help isolate, identify, and determine organic and inorganic compounds. You can use it to generate many useful insights and analyses to understand the nature of substances better.

If you are interested in learning more about the method, you can look up online courses that can equip you with the knowledge to get started!

Advantages of Using Paper Chromatography

Perhaps the biggest reason why paper chromatography is one of the most widely-used chromatographic techniques is that it is also the simplest. It does not require as many tools and materials and takes up less space than many other analytical methods.

Likewise, paper chromatography is cheaper than most others since you do not need expensive instruments to perform the process but you still get quantification. It can also be used to identify both organic and inorganic compounds, making it versatile and applicable for several uses.

With all that said, it is also worth noting that while using paper chromatography comes with tons of advantages, it is not necessarily applicable for instances. For one, you cannot use this technique for large quantities due to the nature of the process. It may also not be effective for quantitative analyses.

All in all, paper chromatography is a versatile and simple chromatographic method that can be used to perform different kinds of analyses on compounds. Several chemists and researchers use this technique to gain accurate insights about substances without spending too much. Despite being a relatively simple procedure, paper chromatography is a powerful analytic tool that can be used in different studies.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here