A layer of adsorbant also can be spread on a glass plate, instead of packed into a column, for analytical purposes. By means of a thin capillary tube, the plate is spotted with a solution of the mixture that is to be resolved, and the solvent is allowed to evaporate. An eluting solvent is then allowed to move up the plate by capillary action, drawing the components of the mixture along by varying degrees. The plate is developed by spraying it with an oxidizing agent, so that each component becomes charred and appears as a dark spot on the plate. The location and size of the spots serve to identify and measure the relative quantities of the components. As in column chromatography, polar substances will not elute as well and will remain nearer the bottom of the plate, while nonpolar substances will elute to the top. This process is called thin-layer chromatography (TLC). In paper chromatography a procedure similar to TLC is used except that the cellulose in the paper acts as the adsorbant.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.