What Is Chromatography?

Chromatography, which translates to “color writing,” is the process of separation of colors through a process of dissolving a mixture at different speeds. Chromatography, first pioneered by Mikhail Tsvet in 1900, is one of science’s biggest breakthroughs in terms of the range of processes it can be applied to. This Khan Academy explains the basics of Chromatography, paper, thin layer, size-exchange, column, ion exchange, HPLC, affinity, and so on:

For example, not only can chromatography separate liquid, but it can also separate gas, drugs, proteins, and foods. It can be applied to biotechnology or chemical processing. For this reason, chromatography is one of the most valuable techniques for a wide range of scientific experiments and fields.

However, your experience with chromatography does not need to be tied to wearing a lab coat. Chromatography is applied in many contexts and careers, and it is especially well suited to ink technologies. Paper chromatography, or sheet chromatography, is useful for differentiating the types and colors of pigment used.

You might remember your earliest experiences with chromatography as the experiment you might have done in science class or when you prepared for the GED science test when you took a black pen or marker and applied chromatography. In that experiment, you would have seen the different colors that made up the color of the black ink, such as blue, red, and yellow. Paper chromatography can be used to rate the best inks for use on different surfaces.

Ink Forensics
Fascinatingly, this kind of chromatography process, called Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC), is used in forensic criminology. Fingerprints of different suspects can also be used to narrow down a range of suspects to the potential criminal. Forensic scientists can analyze documents or stains at crime scenes and compare them to pens that potential criminals may have used.

In fact, the United States Secret Service has an International Ink Library containing types of inks used around the world. Forensic scientists can also use chromatography to separate drugs and explosives to determine the chemicals used. So if you’re preparing for the GMAT when you want to earn your MBA degree and think about a career in Intelligence, or are already working in that field, having a basic understanding of Chromatography is very useful.

Chromatography can also be applied to documents to analyze the ink used by a specific inkjet printer or even photocopying machine’s make or model. Innovations in ink technologies have allowed forensic analysts greater abilities to track and convict criminals. A lot depends on the color of their personality. This model of analysis can be especially useful when trying to backtrack from paper to the computer that was used. Imagine how great a tool that is for forensic scientists.

It is especially a great tool for determining whether a document is fraudulent. One such instance is the tax evasion case of United States vs. Sloan. In that case, the prosecution was able to determine the date of a document based on the ink used, thereby proving the defendants guilt and leading to a conviction. Many defendants think that becoming a millionaire is the ultimate goal, but having a rewarding career including decent compensation can be far more satisfying, don’t you agree?

Working with chromatography can lead you to fascinating places in ink technologies. For example, ink chromatography is also useful for purposes that are not limited to forensics, such as determining food quality. In one study, chromatography was used to analyze food chemicals that started as ink on packaging and later seeped into the food. You may also want to take a free quiz to see if you are a left brain thinker or a right brain thinker. 

Given the versatility of chromatography, this technology can open the doors for some of the most diverse and rewarding careers.