6 Differences between Chromatography and Electrophoresis

Chromatography and electrophoresis are the analytical techniques that rely on the separation of the sample components.

But, the knowledge of the differences between those methods helps make the proper choice for analytical needs.

In general, electrophoresis is widely used in biological labs and for forensic analysis.

Chromatography vs Electrophoresis

But chromatography is used in diverse fields like chemistry, phytochemistry, medical diagnosis, biology, biochemistry, and even forensic research.

Besides, chromatography can also be combined with other techniques like spectroscopy for further applications.

Before we go further, read our article on types of chromatography and also types of electrophoresis.

Chromatography vs. Electrophoresis

Both techniques work on a different set of principles and have specific instrumentation requirements.

These variations will help in better understanding the differences as outlined in the table below.

Difference Chromatography Electrophoresis
Principle Separation of molecules based on their partition coefficient and adsorption properties. Separation of charged molecules by attraction toward oppositely charged electrodes.
Positively charged cations move toward the cathode, and negatively charged anions move towards the anode.
Technique The pressure is exerted on the sample to erupt out of a column. An electrical field is applied to separate sample molecules based on their charge.
Types Many types: Column, Paper, thin layer, HPLC, HPTLC, Gas chromatography, etc. Few types: Capillary, gel, etc.
Cost Expensive instrumentation and even expensive reagents Inexpensive instrumentation, but reagents can be expensive.
Uses Chromatography can be used for both analytical and also preparatory purposes (extraction of the sample.). Only for analytical purposes. i.e. identification & Quantification
Separation media Liquids and solid media, and sometimes even Gases, are used. Semi-solid gel media is used.
ApplicationsChromatography finds a wide ranga of applications.It finds fewer applications and is mostly limited to biological molecules.

Thus chromatography differs from electrophoresis.

But for a clear-cut principle on separation in chromatography, read the article adsorption and partition chromatography.

  • Also, since we have many types of chromatography, there are further differences among them, which can be compared with electrophoresis.
  • Like Thin layer chromatography and paper, chromatography can be performed faster in a few minutes.
  • While column chromatography can run from a few days to even weeks.
  • But most electrophoresis techniques are completed in a few hours to at max a day.
  • Besides, chromatography can be automated to some extent.
  • Here the technician needs to set up the sample and running instructions to complete the operation without his presence.
  • But electrophoresis is less automated and requires regular monitoring of the process of separation.
  • Even techniques like sampling, washing result in analysis, error detection and correction can be automated in highly advanced chromatographic systems like high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), UPLC, etc.
  • While this level of automation is not present and even may not be required.
  • Since the instrumentation of chromatography can be costly and sensitive, it needs special housing rooms.
  • While electrophoresis is quite simple and can be performed in any clean and tidy space.

When the sample size is large, the process will become laborious and also prone to errors in both techniques.


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