How Is Chromatography Used to Study Plant Pigment?

Chromatography is used to study plant pigment by extracting pigments from the plant and then sorting them by their physical characteristics so they can be analyzed. Chromatography is useful in separating different types of plant pigments because they are very similar to one another and can be difficult to distinguish or physically separate otherwise.

Chromatography is a method by which the individual elements of a single substance or object are separated from one another to be studied individually. This task is often complicated by the fact that certain pieces of a cell, such as the pigment in plant cells, can be difficult to differentiate chemically. To separate the elements of a non-gaseous substance, scientists usually pass the substance through a mixture of solutions. Many bio-chemical laboratories today have a machine, called a chromatograph, specifically for this purpose.

When a plant cell is passed through a solution, different pigments will bind to different parts of the solution. By controlling the solutions being used, scientists can separate the pigments from each other one at a time, forming different rings of color. These rings each represent a different type of pigment in the plant cell, and each have their own physical characteristics. Even though they are chemically similar, this separates the pigments and allows biochemists to study them.