How to Interpret Peak Shapes in a Chromatogram

How to Interpret Peak Shapes in a Chromatogram


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  • Source: Microbioz India

  • Date: 24 Feb,2024

The interpretation of peak shapes in a chromatogram is important for understanding separation and analysis of compounds.

Here are some main concerns to think through:

Peak Width:

Peak width can tell us something about the separation effectiveness. Narrow peaks imply good resolution and efficient separation, while broad peaks indicate poor resolution and probable problems related to peak overlap.

Peak Symmetry:

Ideally, the chromatographic peaks should be symmetrical with the apex of the peak coinciding with its center. Unevenness in peak form is an indication of tailing or fronting. Tailored peaks may result from interaction with stationary phase or detector overloading, while fronted peaks may be due to sample overload or degradation in columns.

Retention Time:

The retention time for a compound is influenced by factors such as compound polarity, column stationary phase and mobile phase composition. This can aid in compound identification by comparing retention times with standards or reference compounds.

Peak Height and Area:

Quantitative information on the amount of a compound present in a sample can be derived from its height and area when it has peaked up at a certain point . Nevertheless, factors such as detector sensitivity and baseline noise can influence peak height whereas peak area is more reliable measure of compound concentration .


For exact integration of peaks during quantification purposes, stable as well as reproducible baselines should always be maintained throughout GC analyses so that drift(s) or fluctuations would not compromise data quality resulting from distorted peak shapes.

Peak Overlap:

In complex samples where numerous components coexist, it may become difficult to distinguish individual ones because their corresponding signals become overlapped within either single or multiple time points. Peak deconvolution techniques can help resolve overlapping peaks.

Generally speaking, interpreting chromatogram’s shape needs consideration upon various aspects which include: width; symmetry; retention time; height/area; baseline stability; likelihood of overlap between peaks. Therefore, by enhancing an understanding about these aspects, chromatographic conditions can be optimized and reliable separation and analysis of the compounds can be done.

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