The term Chromatography includes a number of physical-chemical separation methods, in which the substances to be separated are distributed between a stationary and a mobile phase. Basically chromatography according to the state of aggregation of the mobile phase is divided into gas-, liquid- and supercritical fluid chromatography.

Different separation mechanisms form the basics of chromatographic process, the most important are the adsorption, distribution, ion exchange and size exclusion. Depending on their performance they are called column and planar-chromatography.

The Russian botanist Mikhail Tswett (1852-1919) is referred to as the discoverer of chromatography. In 1903 he succeeded in separating plant pigments at different adsorbents und describing these process.

Chromatography was used primarily as an analytical method for identification and quantification of substances and substance mixtures as well as a preparative method for purificating and isolating larger quantities of substances.

Today modern coupling techniques with spectroscopic methods (e.g. NMR, UV, ICP OES, MS) and with the method of light scattering expand the spectrum of applications.