What should be the typesetting for the symbol of the retardation factor as used in thin-layer chromatography?

These are the possibilities:

  • Rf - only f in italics
  • Rf - both R and f in italics
  • Rf - only R in italics

On Wikipedia, they have used all sorts of typesetting. There is also RF with a capital F.


1 Answer 1


According to Nomenclature for Chromatography (IUPAC Recommendations 1993) [1, pp. 843, 845] (also listed in IUPAC Gold Book), retardation factor is denoted as follows:

  1. Column chromatography: $R$ (capital $R$ in italics).

    3.7.13 Retardation Factor $(R)$

    The fraction of the sample component in the mobile phase at equilibrium; it is related to the retention factor and other fundamental chromatography terms:

    $$R = 1/(k + 1)$$

  2. Planar chromatography: $R_\mathrm{F}$ (capital $R$ in italics and upright capital $\mathrm{F}$ in subscript).

    3.8.04 Retardation Factor ($R_\mathrm{F}$)

    Ratio of the distance travelled by the center of the spot to the distance simultaneously travelled by the mobile phase. Using the symbols of Fig. 2:

    $$R_\mathrm{F} = b/a$$

    By definition the $R_\mathrm{F}$ values are always less than unity. They are usually given to two decimal places. In order to simplify this presentation the $hR_\mathrm{F}$ Values may be used: they correspond to the $R_\mathrm{F}$ values multiplied by 100.

    Ideally, the $R_\mathrm{F}$ values are identical to the $R$ values (see 3.7.13).

    Fig. 2. Typical planar chromatogram


  1. Ettre, L. S. Nomenclature for Chromatography (IUPAC Recommendations 1993). Pure Appl. Chem. 1993, 65 (4). DOI: 10.1351/pac199365040819.

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