Post Tagged with: "chromatography"

Chemistry Lab Demonstrations: Candy Chromatography

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Last lab of the semester today. Next week is the lab final and checkout. This week the students practiced column chromatography. They purified their crude product mixture from last week’s nitration lab. I’ve talked about the theory behind column chromatography before, so I won’t rehash it here in any detail. Suffice it to say that different organic compounds have differing affinities for a stationary phase versus a mobile phase. These differing affinities allow for one compound of interest to be separated from a mixture through the use of column chromatography. Students were aided this week in that their product was bright yellow. They could physically watch it run down the column, then only collect the yellow fractions.

Last lab of the semester means last demo of the semester.  This one’s a do-it-yourself demo, if you’d like.  You can separate the colors contained in M&M shells (or Skittles, or Reese’s Pieces, or Sharpies, etc) through chromatography.  I got my M&M proceedure here.  If you’re interested, other proceedures are available here, and here.   Basic rundown: put drops of water on wax paper, and put a piece of candy on each drop.  Allow for the water to strip the color off the colorful candy shell.  Cut a coffee filter into a rectangle.  Use a toothpick to spot each color onto the coffee filter.  Put the coffee filter into a 1% solution of table salt and allow the water to rise through the coffee filter.  Watch the colors separate like magic!

Couple’a observations I noticed.  Quite interestingly… the stationary phase matters.  A lot.  I started by spotting the colors on my silica gel TLC plates .  I was quite disappointed because the red and yellow both travelled with the solvent front and there was little separation.  I tried several different solvents… no luck.  I also noticed that according to the websites I was looking at, red should have travel the shortest distance.  Then I switched over to filter paper, and all of a sudden I got the results I was expecting.  Who knew?  Also, you should put a crease in the coffee filter before placing it in the solvent.  The paper will start to buckle and it will droop and fall over if it is not creased first.  The more distance you give the colors to separate, the better the results.  I used the largest filter paper we had, and ran the chromatograph twice to get the results shown.

Pop quiz, hot shot: Do you know what the difference between Red 40 and Red 40 Lake are?  I didn’t either.  Turns out… nothing.  At least, not as far as the compound responsible for the hue is concerned.  It’s all in the formulation:

Color additives are available for use in food as either “dyes” or “lakes”.

Dyes dissolve in water, but are not soluble in oil. Dyes are manufactured as powders, granules, liquids or other special purpose forms. They can be used in beverages, dry mixes, baked goods, confections, dairy products, pet foods and a variety of other products. Dyes also have side effects which lakes do not, including the fact that large amounts of dyes ingested can color stools.

Lakes are the combination of dyes and insoluble material. Lakes tint by dispersion. Lakes are not oil soluble, but are oil dispersible. Lakes are more stable than dyes and are ideal for coloring products containing fats and oils or items lacking sufficient moisture to dissolve dyes. Typical uses include coated tablets, cake and donut mixes, hard candies and chewing gums, lipsticks, soaps, shampoos, talc, etc.

There are 5 food coloring agents in M&Ms: Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Blue 2.  As you might expect, green separates into blue and yellow, but surprising the red and yellow of the orange M&M do not separate.  Rather, there is one orange spot with a larger Rf than red.  Brown separates to blue, red and orange.   But it looks like the blue in the blue M&M is a different blue than the blue in the green and brown M&M.

I’ve got lots of pictures from my experience (click for larger).  Note how poorly silica works and how different the Rf’s are between silica and filter paper.  the video is of separating components of felt tip pens, but it’s also neat.

There are no more demos planned, since the lab course is over.  Hope you enjoyed my miniseries.



By April 10, 2009 17 comments fun

“Oh, and what do you study in grad school?”

Answering the question, “What are you studying in grad school?” is never an easy task. Especially if the person really cares what the answer is. If they don’t care, “Chemistry” is usually a sufficient answer, and we move on. I’ve come up with several stock answers that vaguely describe synthetic organic chemistry in somewhat easy-to-understand English for non-chemistry majors (First, I have to explain that ‘synthetic organic chemistry’ is not an oxymoron…)

But if the conversation really gets scintillating (that’s the term I’m going to use, at least), I get to try to explain concepts like flash column chromatography to non-chemists. Over time, I think I’ve formulated a fairly good explanation-by-analogy. I’ll lay it out below the jump. Let me know how I did – especially if you yourself are not completely familiar with column chromatography. What concepts related to your field have you had to explain to non-scientists?

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By October 29, 2008 11 comments synthetic chemistry