Chemical Sciences: A Manual for CSIR-UGC National Eligibility Test for Lectureship and JRF/Retention factor

In chromatography, the retardation factor (also known as retention factor) describes the ratio of time spent in the stationary phase relative to time spent in the mobile phase.[1]

Planar chromatography

The retardation factor in planar chromatography, Rf can be mathematically described by the following ratio:[2]

${\displaystyle \ R_{f}={\frac {\mbox{migration distance of substance}}{\mbox{migration distance of solvent front}}}}$

For example, if particular substance in an unknown mixture travels 2.5 cm and the solvent front travels 5.0 cm, the retention factor would be 0.5. An Rf value will always be in the range 0 to 1: if the substance moves at all, it moves along the direction the solvent ("mobile phase") does less, but cannot move further than the solvent does. Rf values are only useful if they are between these two extremes. One can choose a mobile phase with different characteristics (especially polarity) in order to control how far the substance being investigated migrates. An Rf value is characteristic for any given compound (provided that the same stationary and mobile phases are used).

It can provide corroborative evidence as to the identity of a compound. If the identity of a compound is suspected but not yet proven, an authentic sample of the compound, or standard, is spotted and run on a TLC plate side by side (or on top of each other) with the compound in question. Note that this identity check must be performed on a single plate, because it is difficult to duplicate all the factors which influence Rf exactly from experiment to experiment.

Column chromatography

In column chromatography the retardation factor, R, is the fraction of the sample in the mobile phase at equilibrium.[3] It is expressed as

${\displaystyle \ R_{f}={\frac {1}{k+1}}}$

where k is the retention factor.

References

1. Ettre, L. S. (1993), "Nomenclature for chromatography (IUPAC Recommendations 1993)", Pure and Applied Chemistry, 65: 819, doi:10.1351/pac199365040819
2. IUPAC Gold Book - retardation factor in planar chromatography
3. IUPAC Gold Book - retardation factor in column chromatography