Paper Chromatography

Runge appeared, containing examples of this work. Further work in this area was undertaken by Schonbein and his student Goeppelshroeder, who investigated the technique of Kapillaranalyse (capillary analysis). However, these early studies seem to have stimulated little real interest and, although there appear to have been some limited further studies in the 1930s and 1940s, it was not until the seminal work of Consden, Gordon and Martin in 1944 on the analysis of amino acids in protein hydrolysates, and subsequent studies by Consden, Gorden, Martin and Synge, that paper chromatography made a major contribution to separations.

Paper chromatography is now obsolete, except perhaps as an inexpensive technique for teaching chromatography in schools and colleges. However the introduction of paper chromatography may truly be regarded as revolutionary, and was one of the innovations in partition chromatography that led ultimately to the award of the Nobel prize to Martin and Synge in 1952. One author stated, in a handbook on the topic, that 'By this stroke of genius, they changed the analysis of protein composition from a lifetimes' work to a 2-3-day simple technique that could be carried out in any laboratory'. So rapid was the adoption of the technique that a book on the subject published in 1954 contained nearly 4000 references to its use. Quotations from textbooks of the period contain statements such as 'Paper chromatog-raphy is so widely used that it is impossible to make more than a rough estimate of its application' or 'it can be stated that there is virtually no field of chemistry or biology in which paper chromatography has not made a substantial contribution to the furtherance of knowledge and understanding'.

However, despite its huge impact at the time, paper chromatography suffered from a range of problems that led to its rapid replacement by thin-layer chromatography (TLC), to which it was inferior in almost every respect. In particular, separations on paper were often very slow (often up to 10 or 20 h), and spots tended to be much more diffuse than, for example, separations on cellulose TLC plates.

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