Identification of Paper by Stationary Phase Performance

Michael J. Smith*, Ilda C. Vale, Fiona M. Gray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Paper is an extraordinary example of a composite engineering material with practical use in a huge variety of applications. Since its invention in China, there have been many alterations to manufacturing techniques, component formulation, and surface finishing, yet the essential characteristics of paper have not changed greatly. The objective of this experiment is to demonstrate that the chromatographic performance of paper as a stationary phase may be used to distinguish, between externally similar materials. The procedure developed is so simple that even students with little exposure to practical chemistry and limited chemical knowledge can understand the essential content. Because of the ubiquitous nature of paper, it is often recovered from crime scenes as evidence for analysis. However, the variety of sources and the mechanical or chemical properties often make demonstration of unequivocal correlation between "questioned" and "known" or "reference" samples a complex task. Introducing the practical session as a crime scene investigation, and presenting the laboratory exercise as an accessible forensic technique for paper identification, adds an exciting dimension to the practical experience for young people. The authors' application of this strategy has been successfully extended as it has become evident that the experiment motivates a surprisingly wide range of audiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1679-1683
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • Forensic Chemistry


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