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Applications of Chromatography

Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
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What is Chromatography?

Chromatography is a technique that is used for the separation, purification, and identification of the constituents of a mixture for qualitative and quantitative analysis. The term was given by the Russian botanist Mikhail Tswett. Different chromatographic processes are used to differentiate the size, binding affinities, charge, and other properties. It is an excellent technique used for separation used in different branches of science. 

Different Types of Chromatography

There are different types of chromatography techniques used having different instrumentation and working principles. There are four main types of separation techniques based on molecular characteristics and interaction. The different mechanisms used in different techniques of chromatography are based on ion exchange, partition, surface adsorption, and size exclusion. Some chromatography techniques are based on the stationary bed, including column, thin layer, and paper chromatography. 

Different Applications of Chromatography

Chromatography has many different applications in different sectors and industries such as pharmaceuticals, chemical, and food industries. For confirming that samples tend to contain only a limited amount of pollutants like the pesticides in soil and PCBs in the waste oil, the environmental laboratories tend to make extensive usage of the chromatography technique. 

The Environmental Protection Agency developed the chromatography process which is used to analyze the water used for drinking and to monitor the quality of air. This is an approach by many pharmaceutical manufacturers for preparing larger amounts of the products that have higher purity and for testing the extracted compounds for the traces of contaminants. Several other applications of the chromatography technique are explained below. 

Let us discuss the uses of chromatography in detail in different industries and the chromatography examples in real life.

Applications of Chromatography in the Pharmaceutical 

The chromatography technique is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry for analyzing and identifying the presence of any sorts of trace amounts of elements and chemicals in the given sample. Another important application of chromatography in the pharmaceutical industry is for the separation of chemical compounds depending on their molecular masses and also sometimes based on the elements which constitute them. The chromatography technique also plays a vital role in the development of newer drugs. For example, any presence of impurities and several other unknown compounds are detected in the sample of drugs by using chromatography. Also, the drug purity sample is analyzed by using this technique of chromatography.

Applications of Chromatography in the Food Industry

The technique of chromatography plays a crucial role in the food industry for the determination of the shelf life of several food substances through helping in the analysis of the point wherein the food tends to spoil. Also, the presence of chemical additives in the food items is determined by using this technique. The food sample’s nutritional value is also determined with the help of chromatography techniques.

Applications of Chromatography in the Chemical Industry

Chromatography technique tends to play a crucial role when it comes to the chemical industry in testing the water samples for purity. The air sample testing to determine their purity can also be accomplished with the help of chromatography techniques in the chemical industry. The presence of the toxic contaminants in pesticides and oils can be easily determined by using specialized techniques of chromatography, for example, HPLC and GC. The most notable contaminants are polychlorinated biphenyls that are denoted as PCBs.Chromatography techniques are also applied in several applications related to the Life Sciences.

Applications of Chromatography in Molecular Biology

When it comes to Molecular Biology, the studies of metabolomics and proteomics often tend to involve the usage of several hyphenated techniques of chromatography, out of which the most notable is EC-LC-MS. The nucleic acid research is known for making extensive usage of these chromatographic techniques. A special kind of chromatography technique is called HPLC which is widely used in protein separation applications. This kind of chromatography technique is used in the purification of enzymes, insulin purification, and plasma fractionation.


Many different kinds of chromatography techniques are widely used in the chemical industry. The environmental research laboratories tend to make extensive use of different chromatography techniques to search for the trace amounts of the toxins present in the waste oil like PCBs. Such kinds of techniques are also used while looking for pesticides like DDT in the groundwater. The chromatography technique is also employed by the Environmental Protection Agency for checking the drinking water for purity and also monitoring the quality of air. Many pharmaceutical companies have been using the techniques of chromatography for both processing huge amounts of highly pure products and also for testing the extracted substances for tracing the contaminants. Apart from all these applications, it is also the technique of chromatography that is also used extensively in the field of Biotechnology, fuel industry, and in several biochemical processes.

FAQs on Applications of Chromatography

1. How is chromatography useful in Forensic Science?

Chromatography is also useful in Forensic Science for collecting evidence and finding criminals. It is used for blood tests that can help to determine the number of drugs, alcohol, or toxic substances in the body of the dead person. It also helps to determine the poison in the body. Gas chromatography is also used for testing samples of urine, blood, and clothes for finding the criminals and helping them to get justice. It is also used for screening athletes for doping or performance-enhancing drugs as it can help to determine substances in the blood. 

2. How is chromatography used in environmental analysis?

Chromatography is used for the separation of substances and for determining the organic traces in the environmental samples. It is also useful for determining and identifying environmentally ubiquitous pollutants in the environment. Liquid chromatography is useful for examining different pesticide residues. It also helps in determining the volatile and non-polar organic compounds in the atmosphere. It also helps in identifying carcinogenic pollutants present in the drinking water. 

3. What is the principle of chromatography?

Chromatography is used to separate a mixture that is dissolved in a fluid such as gas, water, or solvent. This is known as a mobile phase that tends to carry it via a system, either a plate, capillary tube, column, or sheet, on which a material is fixed known as the stationary phase. The different components of the mixture have varying affinities for the stationary phase. Different molecules tend to stay either shorter or longer on the stationary phase, which depends on their interactions with the surface sites.


Therefore, they tend to travel at different speeds in the mobile fluid which causes them to separate. This separation is dependent on the differential partitioning between the stationary phases and the mobile. Minor differences in the partition coefficient of the compound tend to result in the differential retention on the stationary phase and hence, in turn, affects the separation.

4. How does the chromatography technique work?

The chromatography technique works in the following ways:

  • Chromatography is dependent on the principle wherein the molecules in a mixture that are applied onto the surface or in the solid and fluid stable phase are separating from one another when moving with the mobile phase’s aid.

  • The factors that are effective in the separation process tend to include molecular characteristics that are in relation to adsorption, partition, and affinity or differences in their molecular weights.

  • Due to these differences, some of the components of the mixture tend to stay longer in the stationary phase and then move slowly in the technique of chromatography when the others pass rapidly in the mobile phase and tend to leave the system quickly.

  • There are three different components that are formed based on the chromatography which are stationary phase, mobile phase, and separated molecules.