6 Difference between Chromatography and Electrophoresis

Chromatography is a technique which is meant for separation of a component of a mixture. Similarly, electrophoresis is also meant for separation of components of a given sample.

But one needs to understand the difference between chromatography and electrophoresis for analytical needs.

In general, electrophoresis is used mostly in biological labs and forensic analysis. But chromatography is used in chemistry, phytochemistry, medical diagnosis, biology, biochemistry and even in forensic research.

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

Difference between Chromatography and Electrophoresis

Chromatography has a different set of principles and instrumentation compared to electrophoresis.

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

This will help in understanding the differences outlined in the table below even better.

Difference Chromatography Electrophoresis
Principle Separation of molecules based on their partition coefficient and adsorption properties. Separation of charged molecules by attraction toward opposite charged electrodes.
Technique Pressure exerted on sample to erupt out of a column. Electrical field applied to separate sample molecules based on their charge
Types Many types: 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 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.

Thus chromatography differs from electrophoresis. But for detailed principle on separation in chromatography, read the article adsorption and partition chromatography.

1 Difference between Chromatography and Electrophoresis
Student handling column 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 like in few minutes. While column chromatography can run from a few days to even weeks.

But most electrophoresis techniques complete in 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 monitor of the process of separation. Even techniques like sampling, washing, result in analysis, error detection and correction can be automated in highly advances 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 spaces.

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