Reduced Gravity
Flight Team

Reduced Gravity Flight Experiment

“Chromatography Experiment”



Chromatography is the science which studies the separation of molecules based on differences in their structures and/or composition. In Christa McAuliff’s lesson she was going to show the process of capillary action that is exerted to separate the colors from the filter paper. (1) Our goal is to take this process one step farther by calculating the Rf values. (Rf = distance traveled by compound / distance traveled by solvent.) The type of chromatography used depends on the nature of the two phases—a stationary phase (which can be a solid or liquid) and a mobile phase (usually a liquid or gas). The separation is based on a difference in the degree of attraction between the components and the other phase, either stationary or mobile phase. (2) This experiment is to show that the capillary action that is associated with chromatography can be conducted by different means besides the normal paper chromatography.


Team Members:

Angaleta Crenshaw--- Teacher Sunray High School, Sunray ISD, students in Physics, and the LiftOff Reduced Gravity Team.



Chromatography is one of the most effective techniques for both identifying and separating mixtures. The word chromatography literally means “color writing”. It is an important diagnostic tool for chemists. (3) Many types of substances can be separated and analyzed using this technique.


Chromatography is a technique that separates the components of a mixture (called the mobile phase) on the basis of the tendency of each to travel or be drawn across the surface of another material (called the stationary phase). The technique takes advantage of the fact that different components of the mixture interact differently with the two phases. Some will be more strongly attracted to (absorbed onto) the stationary phase, while others will be more attracted to (soluble in) the mobile phase. As the mobile phase moves through the stationary phase, those components more strongly absorb to the stationary phase will lag behind their more mobile counterparts, thereby effecting a separation.





(1) Scientific processes: The student, for at least 40% of instructional time, conducts field and laboratory investigations using safe, environmentally appropriate, and ethical practices;

The student is expected to:

(A) demonstrate safe practices during field and laboratory investigations


(2) Scientific processes: The student uses scientific methods during field and laboratory investigations:

The student is expected to:

(A) plan and implement investigative procedures including asking questions, formulating testable hypotheses, and selecting equipment and technology

(B) collect data and make measurements with precision

© organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data

(D) communicate valid conclusions


(3) Scientific process: The student uses critical thinking and scientific problem solving to make informed decisions:

The student is expected to:

  • analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information



Integrated Physics and Chemistry:

(7) Science Concepts: The student knows relationships exist between properties of matter and its components.

The student is expected to:

(A) investigate and identify properties of fluids including density, viscosity, and buoyancy

(B) identify constituents of various materials or objects


(9) Science concepts: The student knows how solution chemistry is a part of everyday life.

(B) related the concentration of ions in a solution to physical and chemical properties such as pH, electrolytic behavior, and reactivity

(D) demonstrate how various factors influence solubility including temperature, pressure, and nature of solute and solvent

(E) demonstrate how factors such as particle size, influence the rate of dissolving



(4) Science concepts: The student knows the characteristics of matter.

The student is expected to:

(B) analyze examples of solids, liquids, and gases to determine their compressibility, structure, and motion of particles, shape, and volume


(C) investigate and identify properties of mixtures and pure susbstances


(5) Science concepts: The student knows that energy transformations occur during physical or chemical changes in matter.

The student is expected to:

(A) identify changes in matter, determine the nature of change, and examine the forms of energy involved


(B) identify and measure energy transformations and exchanges involved in chemical reactions


(12) Science concepts : The student knows the factors that influence the solubility of solutes in a solvent.

The student is expected to:

(A) demonstrate and explain effects of temperature and the nature of solid solutes on the solubility of solids

(B) develop general rules for solubility through investigations with aqueous solutions


(C) evaluate the significance of water as a solvent in living organisms andin the environment


(13) Science concepts: The student knows relationships among the concentration, electrical conductivity, and colligative properties of a solution

The student is expected to:

(A) compare unsaturated, saturated, and supersaturated solutions


(B) interpret relationships among ionic and covalent compounds, electrical conductivity and colligative properties of water


(C) measure and compare the rates of reaction of a solid reactant in solutions of varying concentration


(5) Science concepts : The student knows factors involved in chemical reactions.

The student is expected to:

(B) related the rate of chemical reaction to temperature, concentration, surface area, and presence of a catalyst



(6) Science concepts: The student knows forces in nature.

The students is expected to:

(A) identify the influence of mass and distance on gravitational forces





Test Objectives:

To be able to measure the Rf factor (capillary action) involved in the mobile and stationary phase in chromatography. By measuring the Rf factor one can determine how much movement can be accomplished in microgravity, lunar gravity, and Martian gravity.




Test Description:

The initial process of this test will be based on the basic part of the Challenger’s Lost Lesson. In the initial process the experiment was a basic paper chromatography experiment. (1) We will take that a step farther by marking one centimeter lines with the half centimeter marked. This would show the distance that the capillary action occurs during each phase of microgravity, lunar gravity, and Martian gravity. The process would be documented by using a video camera and digital camera to record what occurs. This will then be used to work out the formula process.



1. Cut 1.5 cm X 10 cm strips of coffee filters and/or paper chromatography paper.


2. Place 1 cm lines and .5 cm lines using a pencil on the strips.


3. On the 2 cm line place a dot with a water based marker.


4. Place the strip in the container that has a paper clip that will hold it in place.


5. Determining timing place water on the paper and time and record the process of moving solvents.


6. To determine the Rf factor

a. Determine and record the distance traveled by the mobile phase by measuring the distance (in mm) from the top of initial spot to the final position of the solvent

b. Determine and record the distance traveled by each color by measuring the distance (in mm) from the pencil mark at the top of each of the initial spots to the mark indicating the end of each color it produced (this will be the time it travels in each parabola or 20 second intervals


7. This can be determine by looking back at the video and printing off the pictures to see what they showed.



2. www.
3. Glencoe: Chemistry: Matter and Change


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