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I'm looking for a way to take 3 separate liquids (liquids which function as paint -- they will all be different colors), put them together into a container, and then rapidly separate them back to distinct colors.

I can handle all the electrical engineering aspects of my project, but this portion is beyond me. Does anyone have any ideas?

When I say "a quick method", I mean something that can be done easily without an excess of time or equipment. Ideally an way to make the paints intrinsically immiscible, but I need to be able to separate them entirely, so that when they are poured together into a container, I can then separate and reuse them.

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    $\begingroup$ Column chromatography, but you will need the appropriate glass tube, powdered silicate and an abundance of the appropriate solvent. This depends highly on what your paints actually are, but this is my "quick" response. $\endgroup$ – Chris Jul 12 '12 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ This question should be returned to physics, better theoretical physics, due to the questions ethereal nature. $\endgroup$ – Georg Jul 12 '12 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris Paints regularly contain pigments! So any kind of chromatography will fail. $\endgroup$ – Georg Jul 12 '12 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Georg, any chromatography will fail on any pigment? That's incorrect, the classical chromatography experiment is to separate leaf pigments. $\endgroup$ – Chris Jul 12 '12 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ Really think that the question needs expansion. Please explain what kind of experiment this is or what kind of effect you want to observe. $\endgroup$ – tobias47n9e Jul 13 '12 at 5:09
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A stable 3-phase liquid system can be created, as Spießbürger mentioned with three mutually immiscible liquids. The best one that I know of is the organic-aqueous-fluorous 3-phase system.

Fluorocarbons (hydrocarbons in which every hydrogen atom is replaced by a fluorine atom), are interestingly immiscible in both water and common organic solvents. This property has added a dimension to chemical separations using fluorous phase extractions.

If you have three paints, one oil-based, one water-based, and one fluorous-based, then you could separate them easily using a separatory funnel or similar device. You would have to make sure that the pigments in each paint was only significantly soluble in that solvent, which would take experimentation.

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You could use three immiscible liquids with different densities. Gravity will separate them for you. Here is a typical example of one of these experiments using water, cooking oil and corn syrup:

http://sabrinaschool.wordpress.com/2008/02/08/liquid-density/

For faster separation you could build a centrifuge.

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You have three miscible colored liquids you want to separate quick, cheap, and easy at will? There must be two orthogonal properties.

1) Couple one chromophore to a superparamagnetic particle, e.g., a ferrofluid. It is pulled out in a strong and strongly divergent magnetic field'

2) Couple the second chromophore to a strong acid, e.g, as a sulfonic acid. It stays in water, certainly to pH 7 and more basic, resistant to immiscible solvent extraction.

3) Couple the third chromophore to a strong base, like guanidinium. It stays in water until you go strongly alkaline, and then then be extracted into an immiscible solvent.

If you don't mind spending a year or ten in the lab, case (1) plus a temperature-driven critical phase change will do a pretty, polystyrene- and poly(vinyl methylene)-linked chromophores, http://www.doitpoms.ac.uk/tlplib/solid-solutions/printall.php (bottom),

inverse critical phase separation

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The only thing that comes to my mind is laminar flow.

Watch this video and tell me if that's something like what you're look for.

Problem is, you're not really separating "three liquids"...

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i dont think their is any easy method(in a single step) for doing this kind of separation. if even one of the three liquids are immisible(not soluble) to others then you can try simple separation using funnel (most paints are emulsions )and also try to learn about different kinds of separation techniques. if possible find out the solubility of those paints(which are polar and nonpolar) and resubmit here.

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Sorry to say no experience but I would think a polymer base cheap achrylic mixed with a 3/4 Mercury metal heated to bond, a symple oil base paint and liquified water color would do the trick in a more than precise time

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