Kids Corner: Chromatography for Kids!

Summer camp is in full swing right now and we have had so much fun discovering the wonders of the natural world!

One of our exciting, long-term science experiments showed us just how vivid and colorful plants are! This experiment is called Pigment Chromatography (yeah, it’s a big long title…). Pigments are the colors that make the plants look the way they do. Chromatography is the process of passing a mixture through another solution in order to separate out the individual pieces of the mixture.

With Pigment Chromatography, we are passing plant pigments (or colors) through a liquid in order to see the individual colors that make up the chosen plant! Think that your leaf is just green – think again! Leaves are made up of many colors like red, green, orange, and yellow and this experiment will help you visualize this.

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Plant chromatography in progress. Observe the coffee filter paper – what colors are being sucked up by the paper?

Materials:

  • Clear Jar
  • Leaves or Flowers
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Coffee Filter cut into long strips
  • Tape
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Scissors

Methods & Observations:

  1. Make sure that your chosen jar is easy to see through and clean.
  2. Find a plant that you would like to discover how many colors are in it and chop it up finely into the jar with scissors (you may want a parent to help out).
  3. Cut out a long strip of coffee filter and tape to the inside of the jar (tape should be all the way at the top). It should hang almost to the bottom of the jar.
    • Compare coffee paper to other types of papers. Why do we use coffee filters and not normal notebook paper?
  4. Cover the chopped up plant pieces with Isopropyl Alcohol.
    • Try this same experiment with different plants and use Milk or Water – then compare the results! Why might the results be different?
  5. Let your experiment sit. Observe the filter paper over time. As the pigments get pulled out of the plant matter, they will move up the coffee filter paper.
    • Different pigments may be heavier or lighter than others and will be pulled out separately. Why might this happen?
    • What color was the plant originally? Are the pigments pulled out what you would have expected?
  6. If you are doing multiple experiments, use the sharpie marker to label each cup.

 

 

 

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