Since the late 1950s and early 1960s, molecular biologists have learned to characterize, isolate, and manipulate the molecular components of cells and organisms. These components include DNA, the repository of genetic information; RNA, a close relative of DNA whose functions range from serving as a temporary working copy of DNA to actual structural and enzymatic functions as well as a functional and structural part of the translational apparatus; and proteins, the major structural and enzymatic type of molecule in cells.
Chromatography (from Greek χρῶμα chroma "color" and γράφειν graphein "to write") is the collective term for a set of laboratory techniques for the separation of mixtures. The mixture is dissolved in a fluid called the mobile phase, which carries it through a structure holding another material called the stationary phase. The various constituents of the mixture travel at different speeds, causing them to separate. The separation is based on differential partitioning between the mobile and stationary phases. Subtle differences in a compound's partition coefficient result in differential retention on the stationary phase and thus changing the separation.
Chromatography may be preparative or analytical. The purpose of preparative chromatography is to separate the components of a mixture for more advanced use (and is thus a form of purification). Analytical chromatography is done normally with smaller amounts of material and is for measuring the relative proportions of analytes in a mixture. The two are not mutually exclusive.