Can Chromatography Separate Solids and Liquids?

Generally, yes. Chromatography is a process that separates substances from mixtures of liquids or gases. The liquid or gas is called the mobile phase and the stationary phase is a surface. The components of the mixture travel at varying speeds to different points within the stationary phase. Chromatography is useful for a number of purposes, including pharmaceutical research and quality control. There are three different types of chromatography: thin-layer, paper, and liquid-liquid countercurrent distribution.


For protein purification, the method of size-exclusion chromatography is used. This method separates larger molecules based on their size and shape. A stationary phase, made of porous materials, is packed into a column. Each particle contains multiple small pores of various sizes. After the target has been eluted, the sample is detected by UV absorption at 280 nm.

The mobility of a particle is determined by its shape, size, charge, and temperature during separation. During separation, electrical parameters such as pH value, viscosity, and ionic strength influence the movement of the particles in the gel. As a result, particles migrate in a direction of higher current density compared to the other side. One of the disadvantages of most forms of electrophoresis is the difficulty of removing heat. The difference in temperature causes distortion in bands of separated molecules. A constant temperature would help in electrophoresis.

Thin-layer chromatography

Thin-layer chromatography is a separation technique for non-volatile mixtures based on the relative affinities of their components with stationary phases. Originally developed in 1938, this technique was initially used for plant extracts. The samples were applied to the center of a 2mm thick layer, and the resulting ring-like separations were interpreted as a result of the presence of plant extracts. The technique was then further developed by M.O.L Crowe in 1941, who improved the method by introducing binders into the sorbents. This improved method was first used for analytical chemistry in 1949.

In addition to separating liquids, this technique can be used for monitoring the reaction. If the compound is pure, it will give only one spot, indicating that the reaction has successfully completed. This technique is not appropriate for solids, as it only works for samples that are in the same phase as the mobile phase. Thin-layer chromatography is also limited to liquid samples due to surface adsorption.

Paper chromatography

Paper chromatography can separate solids and liquids by separating their solubility. The more soluble components travel up the paper while insoluble components stay on the baseline. For example, the ink labelled B contains blue, pink, and dark purple pigments. Blue is the most soluble pigment while the dark purple is the least soluble. Using this process, researchers can identify which compounds make up a mixture.

One application of paper chromatography is to determine the concentration of unknown compounds in a mixture. The separated spots can be cut and dissolved again. A paper chromatogram can also be used to separate colors in ink. For a simple experiment, a cylinder of colored paper can be inserted into a wine glass filled with water. The water creeps up the paper and separates the different colors.

Liquid-liquid countercurrent distribution

The principle of liquid-liquid countercurrent extraction in chromatography is the same as that used for liquid-liquid extraction, with the exception that the two phases are disposed in different vessels. The upper phase of the sample is extracted in the vessel 1, while the lower phase is extracted in the vessel 2. The countercurrent extraction method is also known as reversed-phase chromatography and is most commonly used in the petrochemical industry.

The name countercurrent chromatography is misleading because the separation process does not actually involve the circulation of fluid. In countercurrent chromatography, the liquid mobile phase is flown through the stationary phase in the opposite direction. In most cases, the liquid stationary phase is kept steady by centrifugal fields while the mobile phase is moved past it. The naming of the method comes from the early 1970s, when Yoichiro Ito was referring to Craig’s countercurrent distribution technique.

Electrostatic separation

The process of electrostatic separation in chromatography involves charging and discharging particles with an electric field. The physical properties of the particles are important for electrostatic separation, including particle size and shape. Environmental factors and voltage levels can also affect the separation efficiency. The position of the feeding unit and the electrode system determine the amount of charge that each particle attracts. In this paper, we describe two different methods of electrostatic separation and explore how they can be combined to optimize the separation process.

An example of this separation method is the GC separation of Pyrite from Silica Sand. In this example, two particles are separated by a stainless steel roll and a vibratory feeder. The stainless steel roll rotates at a prescribed rate and is earthed. The particle with the correct charge will stick to the drum. If it repels the other particles, it will fall away from the metal drum and be separated by electrostatic forces.

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