MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What kind of chemicals can I use to do chromatography on fingernail

Date: Tue Mar 27 01:08:16 2001
Posted By: Werner Sieber, Research Scientist, Colors Division, Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp.
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 985484441.Ch

Dear Kelli,

Thanks to a useful hint by the Administrator, the explanation of your 
findings is not very difficult: Your fingernail polish is most probably 
colored by PIGMENTS. These are INSOLUBLE, very fine powders of coloring 
matter. Since paper chromatograhy relies on a dissolution/adsorption 
equilibrium, you can only analyse SOLUBLE substances by this method. 
In some other fingernail polishes, colorants are chemically bound to 
POLYMERS, which are also rather difficult to get to move on paper 
An important thing to heed when doing paper chromatography, especially 
with volatile solvents, is to keep the paper in a saturated atmosphere of 
the solvent vapor before and during the process (i.e. in a closed jar).
The main component of nail polish remover is generally ethyl acetate, 
which is a good solvent of relatively low toxicity.

Best Regards
Werner Sieber

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