Guess the Chemist (7)

Guess the Chemist (7)

Author: ChemViews

This person began their research by looking at ways of detecting pyro-electricity and, as a post-graduate, ultraviolet adsorption spectroscopy. This was followed by post-doctoral research on the isolation of vitamin E and long-term effects of vitamin E deficiency.

The main body of this person’s work, however, concerned the amino acids present in the proteins of wool fiber. This chemist encountered problems separating amino acids with established methods due to the similarity of their structures. The person therefore devised a way to separate the amino acids by exposing them to different solvents. They found, for example, that by adding the dye methyl orange to a column of ground silica gel coated with water, the amino acids acetyl alanine and acetyl leucine could be separated and observed as two distinct red bands on the column.

This person developed the theoretical explanation for the type of separation described above by using the concept of height equivalent to a theoretical plate (HETP) which is the basis of fractional extraction theory. This allows qualitative estimation of chromatograms where the ratio of distribution of the analytes between the immobilized water and the mobile solvent are affected by their concentration. This theory can also be used to fully explain the chromatograms of substances where the distribution ratio is independent of concentration.

This technique was later further adapted by this person. The liquid mobile phase was replaced with a gas as gases are less volatile than liquids and allow much quicker diffusion. This resulted in a higher flow rate and longer and thinner columns without the resulting decrease in separation ability seen with long, liquid-based columns.

These techniques made it possible to use columns with very high separating efficiency and to isolate individual amino acids and nucleic acids for the first time. Both techniques are today widely used in chemistry, biochemistry, and medicine.

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