LabBench Activity

Key Concepts I: Plant Pigment Chromatography

Paper chromatography is a technique used to separate a mixture into its component molecules. The molecules migrate, or move up the paper, at different rates because of differences in solubility, molecular mass, and hydrogen bonding with the paper.

For a simple, beautiful example of this technique, draw a large circle in the center of a piece of filter paper with a black water-soluble, felt-tip pen. Fold the paper into a cone and place the tip in a container of water. In just a few minutes you will have tie-dyed filter paper!

Separation of black ink pigments

The green, blue, red, and lavender colors that came from the black ink should help you to understand that what appears to be a single color may in fact be a material composed of many different pigments—and such is the case with chloroplasts.

Study this figure; you will return to it later.