What is Distillation?

What is Distillation?

Distillation is a purification and separation process. Generally, it is done by heating a liquid and creating a vapor that is collected and cooled, entirely separate from the original substance. This process is based on the boiling point of different substances. The substance with the lower boiling point will become a vapor first and thus will be the substance that is collected.

What is Distillation used for?

This purification and separation process is used to produce a wide variety of products that are used in households, restaurants, and even certain industries. These products include, but are not limited to:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Vinegar
  • Purified water
  • Desalination of water (removing salt, generally from sea water)
  • Purification of industrial chemicals
  • Separation of oil components to make fuel

What are the Types of Distillation?

There are many different types of distillation that are used throughout different industries and to produce different products. There are five common practices that are used most often:

Batch: Two substances are mixed together and heated until the mixture is brought to a boil. The substance that is deemed more volatile or more reactive will evaporate off and will be contained in the vapor that is collected and cooled.

Continuous: Starts with a substance being distilled, however new liquid is constantly being added to the distillation chamber. The vapors are separated in fractions and constantly removed.

Simple: The vapor that is collected from the substance enters a condenser, is cooled and then is collected for use. The liquids that are mixed together must have very different boiling points, with the substance that is wanted having the lower boiling point so it becomes the vapor.

Fractional: This process uses a fractioning column above the distillation flask to provide more surface area for the vapor to condense on. This makes the condensation of the vapor more effective and efficient.

Steam: Water is added to the substance to lower the boiling point of certain chemicals to allow easier separation.

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