Paper Chromatography

Alonzo L. Stallings Teachers Acad. For Math and Science
10 West 35th Street
Chicago IL 60616


This laboratory experiment is for middle school students.
The students will learn and understand the separation of color in a mixture
using a liquid or solvent through a solid material, such as paper. This leads
to a separation of the various pigments and at the same time can help the
students make some really creative art work.

Materials Needed:

Strips of absorbent paper Colored Magic Marker
round filter paper distilled water
250-ml beaker Isopropyl alcohol
Black Magic Marker Acetone or phosphate buffer


Fold a strip of the absorbent paper in a large beaker, so that it will just
touch the bottom and hang over the top edge. Take the paper out and across the
width of the paper about 2 inches from the bottom of the paper, place a thick
mark with a BLACK MAGIC MARKER. Now add a small amount of water to the beaker
to a depth of about 1/2 of an inch, and carefully place the strip into the beaker
containing the water. The mark should NOT be in the solution but rather be
about 1 inch above the water. Make sure, though, that the end of the paper is
in the water. Watch the water as it moves up the strip of paper (due to
capillary action), and see what happens as it comes in contact with the black
mark. Leave the strip in the solution until the water has climbed all the way
to the crease at the top. You can leave it until later and proceed with Part B.
When this is complete, remove the strip of paper and place it somewhere on your
desk so that it can dry thoroughly.

Performance Assessment:

The students will be observed to see if they are active participants in the
experimental process. I will review the experiment through an oral discussion
with the students.


This experiment was geared for students to have fun with paper chromatography
and to determine which colors are really in the different solvents that were


FUN WITH CHEMISTRY; Laboratory Experiences for Middle School Students. The
Institute for Chemical Education at the University of Wisconsin 1990.

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