Paper Chromatography Report



Paper Chromatography



The purpose of this experiment is to observe how chromatography can be used to separate mixtures of chemical substances. Chromatography serves mainly as a tool for the examination and separation of mixtures of chemical substances. Chromatography is using a flow of solvent or gas to cause the components of a mixture to migrate differently from a narrow starting point in a specific medium, in the case of this experiment, filter paper. It is used for the purification and isolation of various substances. A chromatographically pure substance is the result of the separation. Because purification of substances is required to determine their properties, chromatography is an indispensable tool in the sciences concerned with chemical substances and their reactions.

Chromatography is also used to compare and describe chemical substances. The chromatographic sequence of sorbed substances is related to their atomic and molecular structures. A change in a chemical substance produced by a chemical or biological reaction often alters the solubility and migration rate. With this knowledge, alterations or changes can be detected in the substance.

In all chromatographic separations, there is an important relationship between the solvent, the chromatography paper, and the mixture. For a particular mixture, the solvent and the paper must be chosen so the solubility is reversible and be selective for the components of the mixture. The main requirement, though, of the solvent is to dissolve the mixture needing to be separated. The porous paper used  must also absorb the components of the mixtures selectively and reversibly. For the separation of a mixture, the substances making up the mixture must be evenly dispersed in a solution, a vapor, or a gas. Once all of the above criteria have been met, chromatography can be a simple tool for separating and comparing chemical mixtures.


Paper can be used to separate mixed chemicals.


The materials used for this lab are paper, pencil, eraser, filter paper, test tube, rubber stopper, paper clip, metric ruler, black felt-tip pen, and a computer.


The first step of the method is to bend a paper clip so that it is straight with a hook at one end. Push the straight end of the paper clip into the bottom of the rubber stopper. Next, you hang a thin strip of filter paper on the hooked end of the paper clip. Insert the paper strip into the test tube. The paper should not touch the sides of the test tube and should almost touch the bottom of the test tube. Now you will remove the paper strip from the test tube. Draw a solid 5-mm-wide band about 25 mm from the bottom of the paper, using the black felt-tip pen. Use a pencil to draw a line across the paper strip 10 cm above the black band.

Pour about 2 mL of water into the test tube. The water will act as a solvent. Put the filter paper back into the test tube with the bottom of the paper in the water and the black band above the water. Observe what happens as the liquid travels up the paper. Record the changes you see. When the solvent has reached the pencil line, remove the paper from the test tube. Measure how far the solvent traveled before the strip dries. Finally, let the strip dry on the desk. With the metric ruler, measure the distance from the starting point to the top edge of each color. Record this data in a data table. Calculate a ratio for each color by dividing the distance the color traveled by the distance the solvent traveled.


The results of the experiment are shown in a chart and a graph.

Color of Ink (listed in order)Distance each Color Traveled (mm)Distance Solvent Traveled (mm)Ratio Traveled
(Distance color moved divided by distance solvent moved)
Yellow70 mm111 mm.63
Pink82 mm111 mm.74
Red101 mm111 mm.91
Purple110 mm111 mm.99
Blue111 mm111 mm1.0



1. How many colors separated from the black ink? Five colors separated from the black ink: yellow, pink, red, purple, and blue.

2. What served as the solvent for the ink? Water served as the solvent for the ink. As the solvent traveled up the paper, which color of ink appeared first? The color orange first appeared as the solvent traveled up the paper.

3. List the colors in order, from top to bottom, which separated from the black ink. The colors separated in this order, from top to bottom: blue, purple, red, pink, and then yellow.

4. In millimeters, how far did the solvent travel? The solvent traveled 111 mm.

5. From your results, what can you conclude is true about black ink? Black ink is a mixture of several different colors.

6. Why did the inks separate? The inks separated because the black ink was a mixture of different pigments with different molecular characteristics. These differences allow for different rates of absorption by the filter paper.

7. Why did some inks move a greater distance? The ink least readily absorbed by the paper would then travel the farthest from the starting mark. You can conclude from this information that the different pigments were absorbed at different rates.


Error Analysis
Possible errors could include inaccurate measurements of the distances traveled by the inks and mistakes when calculating the ratio traveled by the water and colors. If a longer test tube was used, a longer strip of filter paper could have been used. This may have changed the ratios. Another color may have been present, but not detected because of the filter paper length.


The proposed hypothesis was correct. The paper chromatography did show that black ink could be separated into various colors. The black ink gets its color from a mixture of various colored inks blended together. The first color of ink to appear on the filter paper was yellow followed by pink, red, purple then blue. The colors separated the way they did because of the differences in their molecular characteristics, specifically, their solubility in water and their rate of absorption by the paper. The most soluble and readily absorbed ink color was the yellow. The least soluble and least absorbable ink color was the blue.