Chromatography is a collective term for a set of analytical techniques used to separate mixtures. Chroma means color and graph means to write or draw. Paper chromatography is an analytical technique used to separate mixtures of chemicals (sometimes colored pigments) using a partitioning method. The paper in this method is called the stationary phase because it does not move and serves as a substrate or surface for the separation. Analytes (substances being analyzed) are separated from each other based on a differential affinity to a solvent. The solvent dissolves and carries the analytes along the matrix of the stationary phase. Since the solvent moves through a wicking action, it is called the mobile phase.
The distance that the analyte migrates along the paper related to the total distance that the solvent or mobile phase moves is called the Retention Factor or Rf.
Tags: quantitative reasoning, guided inquiry