What is Distillation?
Distillation the process of separating and purifying certain chemicals or substances. It can be used in production of many items including alcoholic beverages, vinegar, purified water, and fuel (such as gasoline). It can also be used in industrial processes such as purifying industrial chemicals and desalinating water (removing salt, generally from sea water). The process is typically done by mixing two substances together (one or more of them being liquid) or taking a compound that you only need one part of and then heating it until the substance you would like to separate or purify from the mixture as a whole has evaporated off and condensed so it can be collected.
Types of Distillation
There are many different types of distillation. The process that is chosen largely depends on what is being purified or separated. It can also depend on what the boiling point of certain chemicals are and what equipment you have available. There are five very common types of distillation that are most used in labs and industry. While there are many more, less common types of distillation, these are the five most common:
- Batch: two reactive substances are mixed together and then heated. Once the substances reach a boil, the more reactive of the two chemicals will evaporate off and condense in the apparatus and be collected once they have cooled.
- Continuous: This distillation process is ongoing, as indicated by the name. Liquid is constantly added to the distillation chamber, meaning that product (what becomes a vapor and cools and is collected) is constantly being collected as well.
- Simple: The vapors that are evaporated from the mixture is collected in a condenser and once cooled is collected. The two substances used must have very different boiling points for this to be successful.
- Fractional: This process requires the use of a fractioning column on top of the distillation column. This equipment increases the surface area of the column and allows for better condensation of the evaporated product.
- Steam: Water is added to the substances to lower their boiling point to provide a faster, more efficient distillation column.
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