What makes Paper Chromatography a popular technique even today?

TLC Plate paper chromatogram

Paper Chromatogram

Paper chromatography techniques have retained their ground and are extensively used in separation of different classes of compounds ranging from foods, pharmaceuticals, forensic investigations, environmental monitoring, etc. Chromatography in general has seen phenomenal growth in terms of separation and quantitative estimations, softwares, applications and increased automation for matching the requirements of high throughput laboratories.

Over the years several versions of chromatographic technique have evolved such as TLC, HPTLC, HPLC, UHPLC, GC, Supercritical fluid chromatography. Advanced detection techniques such as fluorescence, refractive index, mass selective detectors coupled with automated sample introduction options have contributed significantly to separation science. Today scientists are fast approaching the ultimate barriers in terms of resolution and limits of detection of constituents in diverse sample matrices.

Benefits of Paper Chromatography

  • Chromatography has seen outstanding growth but as mentioned earlier no basic separation technique has been obsoleted with the advent of advanced techniques. Paper chromatography is no exception and it maintains a noticeable presence in most laboratories even to this day. In this article several factors are highlighted which contribute to acceptance and popularity of Paper Chromatography technique.
  • The technique enables a visual presentation of separated sample components. Some compounds are not visible in visible light but these can be observed under exposure to UV light. This feature serves as a good demonstration exercise for school and undergraduate students
  • Visible spots tend to fade out after some time. It is possible to take pictures and retain the chromatogram for future reference and confirmations. The results are semi-quantitative in nature but with accessories such as densitometers the scope for quantitative estimations increases
  • Simple calculation of Rf of separated spots not involving any software.
  • Minimum amount of sample pretreatment is necessary
  • Low cost of operation requiring minimal training. Except for chromatography paper, applicators and solvents there is no major requirement of expensive consumables
  • No requirement for maintenance as there are no operational breakdowns
  • Solvent requirement is small and solvent mixtures can be prepared fresh every time.
  • Choice of solvents and filter papers and chromatography techniques affords improvement in separation and identification of spots.

In the next article some common questions on Paper Chromatography that you may face in interviews will be discussed.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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