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Chromatography is a fundamental technique in analytical chemistry. It is a versatile method used to separate, identify, and analyze complex mixtures of substances. By utilizing the principle of differential migration, chromatography allows scientists to study the components within a sample and determine their quantity. Its versatility makes it an essential technique in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceuticals, forensics, environmental analysis, and many others. [1-4]

In addition to its ability to separate complex mixtures into individual components, chromatography allows for quantitative analysis. Scientists can accurately determine concentrations by measuring peak areas or heights on chromatograms obtained from detectors coupled with chromatographic systems.

Furthermore, chromatography provides insights into chemical interactions between compounds and their affinity for specific stationary phases. This knowledge aids in understanding molecular structures and properties and identifying unknown substances.

Principles of Chromatography

The chromatographic process involves two key phases: the mobile phase and the stationary phase. The mobile phase is a fluid that carries the sample through the system. In contrast, the stationary phase is a solid or liquid material that remains fixed. Chromatography operates on the principle of separation based on physical properties, specifically the differential affinities of components for the mobile and the stationary phase. [1,2]

The sample mixture is introduced into the system during chromatography and interacts with both phases. The different components of the mixture exhibit varying degrees of affinity for each phase. Traveling through the system, they experience different interaction rates with the mobile and stationary phases, leading to separation.

The separation occurs due to differences in factors such as the components’ solubility, polarity, size, charge, or other physical properties. Components with stronger interactions with the stationary phase will move slowly through it. In comparison, those with stronger interactions with the mobile phase will move faster.

Chromatography can achieve highly precise separations by carefully selecting appropriate stationary and mobile phases and adjusting experimental conditions such as temperature or pressure. The separated components can then be collected and further analyzed or identified.

Types of Chromatography

There are several chromatography techniques, each with unique features and applications. These include: [1,2]

Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) is a simple and cost-effective technique that utilizes a stationary phase coated on a thin layer of support material, such as glass or plastic. It is commonly used for qualitative analysis, compound identification, and reaction progress monitoring. TLC offers quick separation results but may need more resolution than other techniques.


Gas chromatography (GC) separates volatile compounds using a gaseous mobile phase. The sample mixture is vaporized and injected into a column packed with a stationary phase. GC is highly sensitive and provides excellent resolution, making it suitable for analyzing volatile organic compounds in various industries such as environmental analysis, forensics, and pharmaceuticals.

Liquid chromatography (LC) encompasses several sub-techniques, including normal phase LC, reverse phase LC, ion exchange LC, size exclusion LC, and affinity chromatography. It employs a liquid mobile phase to separate analytes based on their interactions with the stationary phase. LC is versatile and widely used in pharmaceutical analysis, food testing, environmental monitoring, and many other fields.

High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is an advanced form of liquid chromatography that utilizes high pressures to achieve faster separations with improved resolution. HPLC offers enhanced sensitivity and can handle small and large biomolecules such as proteins or nucleic acids. It finds applications in drug discovery research, quality control analysis in pharmaceutical industries, and forensic toxicology screening, among others.


Chromatography is employed within laboratories to purify compounds effectively, deriving pure samples from mixtures. Moreover, it quantifies reactants or products and assesses percentage purity. Analytical chemists extensively utilize chromatography for diverse experimental purposes, encompassing the detection and isolation of pure compounds. Chromatography extends its application to monitoring the presence of pesticides, fungicides, and contaminants in food and drinking water and scrutinizing the levels of contaminants in manufactured food. Furthermore, chromatography plays a pivotal role in forensic science investigations. [1]


Q.1. What are elution, eluent, and eluate in chromatography?

Ans. Elution is extracting compounds or molecules from a stationary phase by passing a solvent or a mobile phase through it. The eluent is the solvent or mobile phase that moves through the stationary phase, carrying the target compounds. The eluate is the resulting solution that contains the separated or purified compounds after they have been eluted from the stationary phase by the eluent.