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Elements, Compounds and Mixtures

What is Paper Chromatography?

Paper Chromatography is a separation technique
that is used to separate and identify the
components of a mixture (see also gas chromatography).

Paper chromatography is used to identify colouring agents
(chemicals) for example in food or ink.
The mixture (in this case two green ink spots)
is put on a filter paper that is placed in a suitable solvent.

Paper Chromatography showing Rf value

As the solvent rises up the filter paper
the individual components (dyes)
within the green ink spots are separated.
Different dyes travel different distances up the paper.
The solvent travels furthest
up the filter paper leaving a line called the solvent front.

What is the Rf value?

The distance travelled up the paper by a component
divided by the distance travelled up the paper by the solvent
is called the Rf value or retention factor.

For example, if a component travelled 4 cm
and the solvent travelled 10 cm
then Rf = 4 ÷ 10
        = 0·4

In the above example the green ink spots each have
the same blue dye because they have
travelled the same distance (same Rf value)
but different yellow dyes because they have
travelled a different distance (different Rf value).

Paper chromatography is used by
the food industry and forensic science.

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