What is chromatography, you ask?? Well, quite simply, it is a broad range of physical methods used to separate and or to analyze complex mixtures. The components to be separated are distributed between two phases: a stationary phase bed and a mobile phase which percolates through the stationary bed.
How Does It Work? Like Magic!
A mixture of various components enters a chromatography process, and the different components are flushed through the system at different rates. These differential rates of migration as the mixture moves over adsorptive materials provide separation. Repeated sorption/desorption acts that take place during the movement of the sample over the stationary bed determine the rates. The smaller the affinity a molecule has for the stationary phase, the shorter the time spent in a column.
So, Why Is It So Special?
In any chemical or bioprocessing industry, the need to separate and purify a product from a complex mixture is a necessary and important step in the production line. Today, there exists a wide market of methods in which industries can accomplish these goals. Chromatography is a very special separation process for a multitude of reasons! First of all, it can separate complex mixtures with great precision. Even very similar components, such as proteins that may only vary by a single amino acid, can be separated with chromatography. In fact, chromatography can purify basically any soluble or volatile substance if the right adsorbent material, carrier fluid, and operating conditions are employed. Second, chromatography can be used to separate delicate products since the conditions under which it is performed are not typically severe. For these reasons, chromatography is quite well suited to a variety of uses in the field of biotechnology, such as separating mixtures of proteins.