Chemistry project to separate the ink using chromatography as seen in detective stories

Are you amazed with detective stories such as James Bond? This article explains a Chemistry project to separate a mixture of two or more colors from one another using the blotting paper and the chromatographic technique. Now you can boast detective techniques among your friends with this cool experiment.

Aim of the project

All the children are influenced by James Bond in some way or the another. Most of them like to watch detective movies or even read them all the time. They like the way in which the detectives solve the most confusing and tough cases. They like to play this game with their friends but due to several reasons are unable to find a base where they can play the game. They are unable to frame out a case to solve as it requires several specialized training. Hence, I decided to help the children in this regard where they can be detectives apart from the typical thief-police game. While playing this thief-police game, they can add this technique to catch the thief that shall make the game much more interesting. This activity is so simple that there is no need of any involvement of the adults and the children can use it freely without any of the usual dangers. This activity involves the practical application of the ink chromatography. You can use this technique to separate the black color into its constituents.

Materials required for the chromatography project

  • A blotting paper.
  • Three black pens but of different brands.
  • One bowl of water.

How can you be an ink detective?

  • Take 3 strips of blotting paper and three different black felt pens. Though you shall see that the black ink of all the three pens are similar or exactly the same, in reality they differ from each other in their compositions or mixtures of ink. We shall use this property to be a good detective. On the blotting paper, draw a typical symbol on each of them with the three pens you have taken. Each symbol must correspond to one pen so that you can identify the pen marks easily. For remembering, it shall be better if you draw the same symbol on the pen itself.

  • After this, take a bowl and fill it with water. The bowl must be of sufficient depth and width so that the blotting papers can be accommodated simultaneously in them. See that the colored dots that you made on the blotting papers are covered under the water.

  • Stick the blotting papers with the help of a tape or attach them to the sides of the bowl using the clips or any other means.See that the blotting papers are lowered sufficiently i the water so as to cove the three colored dots made on them.

  • Now, you are ready to be a good detective. You shall only need to attend this training session carefully and concentrate on your observations after which you can catch the thieves. Remember that a good detective observes each and every thing in details. He always keeps his mind and eyes open so that he does not miss even a single clue.

  • When you have suspended the blotting papers in the water, watch the movement of the water carefully. You shall observe that water is moving upwards on the blotting paper as the blotting paper is a very good absorbed of water. You shall be surprised to find that the ink on the blotting paper is also moving upwards with water but not in a single color or a single channel. The black dot has split into a variety of colors. You shall see the three primary colors at different layers of the blotting paper. The three primary colors are the blue, red and green. The mixture of these three colors gives us the black color.

  • After this, your work shall be note down or memorize the color bands produced on the blotting paper. Remember the combination of the colors that goes with a particular pen.

  • Ask your friends to take these pens, one pen with each of three friends. Give them a blotting paper and ask them to mark the blotting paper. You shall request them to make only one mark at a time and that only one should do it out of the three. Request them not to exchange the pens with one another or even if they do it, do it in front of you in your presence.

  • Follow the same procedure that you did before visiting your friends. Dip that blotting paper in a bowl of water and notice carefully the band of color that appears on the blotting paper after ten minutes or so. With the color band appearing on the blotting paper, you can easily recognize the pen with has made this sort of color combinations. Check out which of your friends have that pen and tell them the name of the concerned person and shock them!

Cause for the separation of the black color into a number of primary color

This whole procedure is one of the parts of what we call as chromatography in which we separate the ink from one another. This techniques is more often used in the forensics to catch the guilty by identifying the blood stains etc. Blotting paper is made up of cellulose that is a very good absorber of water and ink. When the marked blotting paper is dipped into water, water rises in the blotting paper due its capillary action. This is called occlusion. All the colors have different absorbent rates and different solubility in water. Thus, the color with minimum absorbent capacity stays behind in the lowermost part of the blotting paper and the color with maximum absorbent power goes to the top. Thus, all the colors are separated from one another. However, this technique is used only for the secondary colors or the colors that are formed as a result of two or more colors. The primary color cannot be separated into any further colors.

Some other methods to separate two or more substances in a mixture

There are various other methods by which you can separate the two or more mixtures. The basic ideology involved in the separation procedure is the different physical and chemical properties of the different elements and compounds. I have described some of the methods that can be performed by kids at home to separate the mixtures:

  • One can use magnets to separate the non-magnetic and the magnetic mixtures. For example, when we move the magnet randomly through the sand, small particles of iron stick to the magnet as iron is a magnetic material and sand is a non-magnetic materials. You shall find that many of the kids keep on rubbing the magnet over the sand in their garden and then collect them.

  • Boiling is another method of separating the gases from the water. It happens because as the temperature of gas increases, their solubility in water or any other liquid decrease sue to which they escape the liquid.

  • Sedimentation and decantation is another method of separating the dust and other waste materials from water. In this method, the impure water containing the sand and other impure materials are placed in a glass after which the water is left untouched. The heavy materials settle down at the bottom and the lighter materials keep on floating. The lighter materials can be made to settle down after adding the potash alum to water as it makes the particles heavier. The pure water is then poured in another clean container.

  • Filtration is another way to separate the mixtures and the various materials. In this, a cellulose paper is used to filter out the chemicals from one another. The insoluble chemicals settle on the filter paper and the soluble one move down.


Author: Kishan Kumar Thakur20 Sep 2013 Member Level: Silver   Points : 10

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