Chlorophyll Chromatography

What is Chlorophyll Chromatography?

Chromatography is the process of separating different chemical compounds.  Chlorophyll is a pigment that absorbs sunlight for energy and gives plants their green color.

Through this activity, you will be breaking down the chlorophyll in leaves to see what colors are in the leaves you find.

For this activity, you will need the following items:

  • Several, different colored leaves
  • 2 or 3 small glass jars or clear plastic cups
  • Paper coffee filters
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A quarter
  • Scissors
  • Optional: Nail polish removal (for different results)

Here’s how to do your own chromatography:

With a quarter, bruise the leaf of your choosing.

Once you’re finished bruising the leaf, cut it into tiny pieces.

You will then put the pieces into your glass jar/plastic cup.

With the help of an adult, pour rubbing alcohol into the jars with the leaf.

Once the alcohol covers the leaves, you can stop pouring.

Take a paper coffee filter and cut it into inch wide strips.

Put one end of the coffee filter in the mixture of leaves and rubbing alcohol.

Let it sit for 4 – 8 hours, or overnight.

Pull out the paper coffee filter strip and lay them flat on a piece of paper, or a paper towel.

What did you discover?

There are different pigments that are in leaves:

Chlorophyll = Green

Anthocyanins = Red

Cartenoids = Orange

Xanthophyll = Yellow

These pigments will separate and stick to the paper coffee filter in different ways.  Some pigments will travel farther up the coffee filter than others, and some will create a thick band of color.


Make notes of the leaves you used, their color, and how their pigments appeared on the paper coffee filters.