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Seporation Techniques

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Separation techniques

Chromatography is a separation technique used to separate the different components in a liquid mixture. It was introduced by a Russian Scientist Michael Tswett. Chromatography involves the sample being dissolved in a particular solvent called mobile phase. The mobile phase may be a gas or liquid. The mobile phase is then passed through another phase called stationary phase. The stationary phase may be a solid packed in a glass plate or a piece of chromatography paper.

The various components of the mixture travel at different speeds, causing them to separate. There are different types of chromatographic techniques such as column chromatography, TLC, paper chromatography, and gas chromatography.

Paper chromatography is one of the important chromatographic methods. Paper chromatography uses paper as the stationary phase and a liquid solvent as the mobile phase. In paper chromatography, the sample is placed on a spot on the paper and the paper is carefully dipped into a solvent. The solvent rises up the paper due to capillary action and the components of the mixture rise up at different rates and thus are separated from one another.


Simple distillation is a method used for the separation of components of a mixture containing two miscible liquids that boil without decomposition and have sufficient difference in their boiling points.

The distillation process involves heating a liquid to its boiling points, and transferring the vapours into the cold portion of the apparatus, then condensing the vapours and collecting the condensed liquid in a container. In this process, when the temperature of a liquid rises, the vapour pressure of the liquid increases. When the vapour pressure of the liquid and the atmospheric pressure reach the same level, the liquid passes into its vapour state. The vapours pass over the heated portion of the apparatus until they come into contact with the cold surface of the water-cooled condenser. When the vapour cools, it condenses and passes down the condenser and is collected into a receiver through the vacuum adapter.

Fractional distillation: Fractional distillation is used for the separation of a mixture of two or more miscible liquids for which the difference in boiling points is less than 25K. The apparatus for fractional distillation is similar to that of simple distillation, except that a fractionating column is fitted in between the distillation flask and the condenser.

A simple fractionating column is a tube packed with glass beads. The beads provide surface for the vapours to cool and condense repeatedly. When vapours of a mixture are passed through the fractionating column, because of the repeated condensation and evaporation, the vapours of the liquid with the lower boiling point first pass out of the fractionating column, condense and are collected in the receiver flask. The other liquid, with a slightly higher boiling point, can be collected in similar fashion in another receiver flask.


A precipitate is an insoluble solid that emerges from a liquid solution. The emergence of the insoluble solid from solution is called precipitation. Often the precipitate emerges as a suspension. Precipitates form when reactions produce salts with low solubility products.


Filtration is good for separating an insoluble solid from a liquid. (An insoluble substance is one that does not dissolve).

Sand, for example, can be separated from a mixture of sand and water using filtration. That's because sand does not dissolve in water.


Crystallisation is also a chemical solid–liquid separation technique, in which mass transfer of a solute from the liquid solution to a pure solid crystalline phase occurs. In chemical engineering crystallisation occurs in a crystalliser.


Drying is a type of vaporisation of a liquid that occurs from the surface of a liquid into a gaseous phase that is not saturated with the evaporating substance. The other type of vaporisation is boiling, which is characterized by bubbles of saturated vapour forming in the liquid phase.


Electrophoresis is a technique used in laboratories in order to separate macromolecules based on size. The technique applies a negative charge so proteins move towards a positive charge. This is used for both DNA and RNA analysis.


Sometimes the solid particles in a liquid are very small and can pass through a filter paper. For such particles, the filtration technique cannot be used for separation. Such mixtures are separated by centrifugation. So, centrifugation is the process of separation of insoluble materials from a liquid where normal filtration does not work well. The centrifugation is based on the size, shape, and density of the particles, viscosity of the medium, and the speed of rotation. The principle is that the denser particles are forced to the bottom and the lighter particles stay at the top when spun rapidly.

The apparatus used for centrifugation is called a centrifuge. The centrifuge consists of a centrifuge tube holder called rotor. The rotor holds balanced centrifugal tubes of equal amounts of the solid-liquid mixture. On rapid rotation of the rotor, the centrifuge tubes rotate horizontally and due to the centrifugal force, the denser insoluble particles separate from the liquid. When the rotation stops, the solid particles end up at the bottom of the centrifuge tube with liquid at the top.

Solvent extraction

Liquid–liquid extraction also known as solvent extraction and partitioning, is a method to separate compounds based on their relative solubilities in two different immiscible liquids, usually water and an organic solvent. It is an extraction of a substance from one liquid into another liquid phase.…...

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