What chromatography is all about?

Chromatography is a wide range of physical methods used to separate and/or to analyze complex mixtures of individual compounds. Individual species to be separated are distributed between two phases: a stationary phase bed and a mobile phase (which passes through the stationary bed). A mixture of various components enters a chromatography process, and the different components are flushed through the system at different velocities. These different velocities of migration as the mixture moves over the stationary phase materials enable separation. Repeated deposition/desorption acts that take place during the movement of the sample over the stationary phase bed determine the velocities. The smaller the affinity a molecule has for the stationary phase, the shorter the time spent in a chromatographic system.

In any chemical, biochemical, geochemical, pharmaceutical and other natural science laboratory, usually an urgent necessity exists to separate complex mixtures, identify their components in a qualitative manner, and in most cases to quantify individual species as well. Similarly, in any chemical or bioprocessing industry, the need to isolate 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 separation techniques in which analytical laboratories and industries can accomplish these goals. However, chromatography is a very special separation process for a multitude of reasons! Firstly, 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. Secondly, chromatography can be used to separate "sensitive" products since the conditions under which it is performed are not typically severe. For these reasons, chromatography is very well suited to a multitude of uses in quite diverse fields of life sciences and of the life-sciences-related industries.

Brief historical background of chromatography

Mikhail Semyonovich Tswett (1872-1919), the Italian-born Russian botanist is considered the Father of Chromatography.

The theoretical background of modern liquid chromatography was first devised by the two British chemists and the Nobel Prize 1952 winners, A.J.P. Martin (1910-2002) and R.L.M. Synge (1914-1994).

According to the IUPAC definition of chromatography, separation techniques making use of electric current - i.e. the electrophoretic techniques - in a formal way also count as chromatography. In this field, the 1948 Nobel Prize was granted upon the Swedish chemist, A.W.K. Tiselius (1902-1971).

Welcome to the Department of General Chemistry and Chromatography

In despite of the fact that chromatography is a wide range of - in most cases - long established physical methods, many of them are still utilized in a trial-and-error manner only. Moreover, the potential of chromatography consists not only in its significant analytical (separation) and preparative (isolation) performance, but also in its - so far not fully recognized and appreciated - performance as a physico-chemical tool, enabling relatively simple acquisition of certain thermodynamic data.

The main goals of our research team are to (i) refine qualitative and quantitative description of retention in liquid (basically, planar) chromatography, and to (ii) find novel approaches to thermodynamic description of the retention in gas chromatography. Planar chromatography with densitometric detection offers, among other things, new possibilities of tracing the so-called 'difficult' (e.g., enantiomeric) separations, which often prove vital in pharmacology and in the other life sciences also. Derivation of thermodynamic data from the gas chromatographic results provides an attractive alternative to the - in most cases time-consuming and tedious - classical microcalorimetric and other measuring techniques.