In the separation method, referred to as chromatography, the separation is based on the differential distribution between a stationary and a mobile phase, which are immiscible. The principle was first described by the Russian-Italian botanist Mikhail S. Tsvet in 1901. Tsvet examined colored plant extracts from e.g. leaf material and was able to isolate different pigments from it. 

Chromatography is used in organic and inorganic chemistry (food chemistry, environmental chemistry and biochemistry) as well as in pharmaceutics, biotechnology and microbiology. In chemistry, it is used for the purification of substances (preparative chromatography); in chemical analysis, it is used to separate mixtures of substances in as uniform ingredients as possible for the purpose of identification or quantitative determination.