Column Chromatography

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In this activity, learners separate the components of Gatorade using a home-made affinity column. In doing so, learners model the basic principle of affinity chromatography, a technique used to purify chemicals as well as bio-pharmaceuticals and petroleum products. This resource contains information about affinity chromatography and polarity.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • activated charcoal – pre-rinse with water to reduce the amount of dust
  • 5ml syringe barrel for your column
  • 2 paper cups
  • 2 popsicle sticks
  • masking tape
  • paper towel or coffee filter
  • hole puncher
  • 3ml graduated plastic pipets
  • containers to collect fractions – clear or white watercolor palettes work well
  • 20% isopropanol
  • 40% isopropanol
  • water
  • Gatorade or other colored drink (purple-colored drinks work well)
  • glucose test strips (optional)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
      • Solutions
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Elements and Periodic Table
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Yu, Julie


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2007

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0610238
  • National Science Foundation, 0925383