High-performance liquid chromatography (or high-pressure liquid chromatography, HPLC) is a chromatographic technique that can separate a mixture of compounds, and is used in biochemistry and analytical chemistry to identify, quantify and purify the individual components of the mixture.
High performance liquid chromatography is basically a highly improved form of column chromatography. Instead of a solvent being allowed to drip through a column under gravity, it is forced through under high pressures of up to 400 atmospheres. That makes it much faster.
It also allows you to use a very much smaller particle size for the column packing material which gives a much greater surface area for interactions between the stationary phase and the molecules flowing past it. This allows a much better separation of the components of the mixture.
The other major improvement over column chromatography concerns the detection methods which can be used. These methods are highly automated and extremely sensitive.
HPLC utilizes different types of stationary phase (typically, hydrophobic saturated carbon chains), a pump that moves the mobile phase(s) and analyte through the column, and a detector that provides a characteristic retention time for the analyte. The detector may also provide other characteristic information (i.e. UV/Vis spectroscopic data for analyte if so equipped). Analyte retention time varies depending on the strength of its interactions with the stationary phase, the ratio/composition of solvent(s) used, and the flow rate of the mobile phase.The output will be recorded as a series of peaks - each one representing a compound in the mixture passing through the detector and absorbing UV light.