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Thin layer chromatography or TLC can be used to separate a mixture consisting of various sugars. This technique is inexpensive and very effective for separating even the smallest quantities of substances in a solution. This technique could be used to determine what carbohydrates are present in foods, or what the components of a plant are in terms of the sugars present. In chromatography, eventually, the solution separates resulting in a chromatogram. By comparing the unknowns in a solution, to known reference materials, the identity of what is in the solution can be determined. Substances travel different distances in chromatography which helps to determine what each thing is. TLC is performed on a sheet of glass, plastic or aluminum foil, coated with a thin layer of silica gel. This is the stationary phase. The sample is applied to the plate and a solvent is drawn up via capillary action. Because each sugar in the solution will ascend the TLC plate at different rates, the sugars will separate.
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