How do you define chromatography?

Before the last CASSS Discussion group debate on difference between high temperature and high pressure liquid chromatography started, there was a welcome slide projected on the wall. There was only one sentece (paraphrase):

Meet other people who like and understand what you do

I highlighted the most important part (for me), because I have always problems to explain what I am doing. I would like to ask you all for your thoughts.

  • How do you define chromatography?
  • Do you have problems to interpret chromatography to other people who don’t understand the chemistry at all?
How do you define chromatography?
How do you define chromatography?

In my case, I am always trying to use words as analysing what is inside a sample, separation of complex mixtures, etc. On the very end (when I see that the listener has no clue at all), I am always using examples such as “when you are visiting doctors, they can determine the level of your cholesterol in a blood with chromatography” or “it can be used for a quality control of gasoline in your car”.

Usually, people just answer “ahaa”. And I know, that they still don’t know what I am talking about.

Once I have read the definition of the chromatography as a running race. On the beginning there is a group of a runners and as time flows (mobile phase?;) the group is separated to a groups of the runners with a same speed (retention). On the end of the run, the winner is a non retained compound and the others are individual parts of the mixture. I am not using this expression often, though. But maybe I will.

At the end of the day – as the saying goes – if I am not able to explain what I am doing to my grandparents, then I dont know what I do.

What are your experience and expressions how to define chromatographic separations?

Your comments and suggestions are more than welcome.

PS: if you are looking for a book which might introduce you in the field of liquid chromatography I strongly recommend Introduction to Modern Liquid Chromatography by Snyder, Kirkland and Dolan. And you might get it also for your Kindle ;-)