Distillation
Overview
 
Distillation is a method of separating
Separation process
In chemistry and chemical engineering, a separation process, or simply a separation, is any mass transfer process used to convert a mixture of substances into two or more distinct product mixtures, at least one of which is enriched in one or more of the mixture's constituents. In some cases, a...

 mixture
Mixture
In chemistry, a mixture is a material system made up by two or more different substances which are mixed together but are not combined chemically...

s based on differences in volatilities of components in a boiling liquid mixture. Distillation is a unit operation
Unit operation
In chemical engineering and related fields, a unit operation is a basic step in a process.Unit operation involves bringing a physical change such as separation, crystallization, evaporation, filtration etc.. For example in milk processing, homogenization, pasteurization, chilling, and packaging are...

, or a physical separation process, and not a chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

.

Commercially, distillation has a number of applications. It is used to separate crude oil into more fractions for specific uses such as transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

, power generation and heating. Water is distilled to remove impurities, such as salt from seawater.
Encyclopedia
Distillation is a method of separating
Separation process
In chemistry and chemical engineering, a separation process, or simply a separation, is any mass transfer process used to convert a mixture of substances into two or more distinct product mixtures, at least one of which is enriched in one or more of the mixture's constituents. In some cases, a...

 mixture
Mixture
In chemistry, a mixture is a material system made up by two or more different substances which are mixed together but are not combined chemically...

s based on differences in volatilities of components in a boiling liquid mixture. Distillation is a unit operation
Unit operation
In chemical engineering and related fields, a unit operation is a basic step in a process.Unit operation involves bringing a physical change such as separation, crystallization, evaporation, filtration etc.. For example in milk processing, homogenization, pasteurization, chilling, and packaging are...

, or a physical separation process, and not a chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

.

Commercially, distillation has a number of applications. It is used to separate crude oil into more fractions for specific uses such as transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

, power generation and heating. Water is distilled to remove impurities, such as salt from seawater. Air is distilled to separate its components—notably oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

, and argon
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

— for industrial use. Distillation of fermented
Fermentation (food)
Fermentation in food processing typically is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation in simple terms is the chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol...

 solution
Solution
In chemistry, a solution is a homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase. In such a mixture, a solute is dissolved in another substance, known as a solvent. The solvent does the dissolving.- Types of solutions :...

s has been used since ancient times to produce distilled beverage
Distilled beverage
A distilled beverage, liquor, or spirit is an alcoholic beverage containing ethanol that is produced by distilling ethanol produced by means of fermenting grain, fruit, or vegetables...

s with a higher alcohol content. The premises where distillation is carried out, especially distillation of alcohol, are known as a distillery.

History

The first clear evidence of distillation comes from Greek alchemists
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 working in Alexandria in the first century AD. Distilled water
Distilled water
Distilled water is water that has many of its impurities removed through distillation. Distillation involves boiling the water and then condensing the steam into a clean container.-History:...

 has been known since at least ca. 200 AD, when Alexander of Aphrodisias
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Alexander of Aphrodisias was a Peripatetic philosopher and the most celebrated of the Ancient Greek commentators on the writings of Aristotle. He was a native of Aphrodisias in Caria, and lived and taught in Athens at the beginning of the 3rd century, where he held a position as head of the...

 described the process. Arabs learned the process from the Egyptians and used it extensively in their chemical experiments
Alchemy and chemistry in medieval Islam
Alchemy and chemistry in Islam refers to the study of both traditional alchemy and early practical chemistry by scholars in the medieval Islamic world. The word alchemy was derived from the Arabic word كيمياء or kīmīāʾ...

.

Clear evidence of the distillation of alcohol comes from the School of Salerno in the 12th century. Fractional distillation
Fractional distillation
Fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts, or fractions, such as in separating chemical compounds by their boiling point by heating them to a temperature at which several fractions of the compound will evaporate. It is a special type of distillation...

 was developed by Tadeo Alderotti in the 13th century.

In 1500, German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 alchemist Hieronymus Braunschweig published Liber de arte destillandi (The Book of the Art of Distillation) the first book solely dedicated to the subject of distillation, followed in 1512 by a much expanded version. In 1651, John French
John French (doctor)
John French was an English physician known for his contributions to chemistry and in particular to distillation as well as for his English translations of Latin and German works.-Life:...

 published The Art of Distillation the first major English compendium of practice, though it has been claimed that much of it derives from Braunschweig's work. This includes diagrams with people in them showing the industrial rather than bench scale of the operation.
As alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 evolved into the science of chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

, vessels called retort
Retort
In a chemistry laboratory, a retort is a glassware device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances. It consists of a spherical vessel with a long downward-pointing neck. The liquid to be distilled is placed in the vessel and heated...

s became used for distillations. Both alembic
Alembic
An alembic is an alchemical still consisting of two vessels connected by a tube...

s and retorts are forms of glassware
Laboratory glassware
Laboratory glassware refers to a variety of equipment, traditionally made of glass, used for scientific experiments and other work in science, especially in chemistry and biology laboratories...

 with long necks pointing to the side at a downward angle which acted as air-cooled condensers
Condenser (heat transfer)
In systems involving heat transfer, a condenser is a device or unit used to condense a substance from its gaseous to its liquid state, typically by cooling it. In so doing, the latent heat is given up by the substance, and will transfer to the condenser coolant...

 to condense
Condensation
Condensation is the change of the physical state of matter from gaseous phase into liquid phase, and is the reverse of vaporization. When the transition happens from the gaseous phase into the solid phase directly, the change is called deposition....

 the distillate and let it drip downward for collection. Later, copper alembics were invented. Riveted joints were often kept tight by using various mixtures, for instance a dough made of rye flour. These alembics often featured a cooling system around the beak, using cold water for instance, which made the condensation of alcohol more efficient. These were called pot still
Pot still
A pot still is a type of still used in distilling spirits such as whisky or brandy. Heat is applied directly to the pot containing the wash or wine . This is called a batch distillation ....

s. Today, the retorts and pot stills have been largely supplanted by more efficient distillation methods in most industrial processes. However, the pot still is still widely used for the elaboration of some fine alcohols such as cognac
Cognac (drink)
Cognac , named after the town of Cognac in France, is a variety of brandy. It is produced in the wine-growing region surrounding the town from which it takes its name, in the French Departements of Charente and Charente-Maritime....

, Scotch whisky
Scotch whisky
Scotch whisky is whisky made in Scotland.Scotch whisky is divided into five distinct categories: Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky , Blended Grain Scotch Whisky, and Blended Scotch Whisky.All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three...

, tequila
Tequila
Tequila is a spirit made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands of the western Mexican state of Jalisco....

 and some vodka
Vodka
Vodka , is a distilled beverage. It is composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made by the distillation of fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or sometimes fruits....

s. Pot stills made of various materials (wood, clay, stainless steel) are also used by bootleggers in various countries. Small pot stills are also sold for the domestic production of flower water or essential oils.

Early forms of distillation were batch processes using one vaporization and one condensation. Purity was improved by further distillation of the condensate. Greater volumes were processed by simply repeating the distillation. Chemists were reported to carry out as many as 500 to 600 distillations in order to obtain a pure compound.

In the early 19th century the basics of modern techniques including pre-heating and reflux were developed, particularly by the French, then in 1830 a British Patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

 was issued to Aeneas Coffey
Aeneas Coffey
-Biography:Coffey was born in Calais, France, where he spent his early years. His family returned to Dublin , where he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He entered the excise service around 1799–1800 as a gauger...

 for a whiskey distillation column, which worked continuously and may be regarded as the archetype
Archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

 of modern petrochemical units. In 1877, Ernest Solvay
Ernest Solvay
Ernest Gaston Joseph Solvay was a Belgian chemist, industrialist and philanthropist.Born at Rebecq, he was prevented by acute pleurisy from going to university...

 was granted a U.S. Patent for a tray column for ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

 distillation and the same and subsequent years saw developments of this theme for oil and spirits.

With the emergence of chemical engineering
Chemical engineering
Chemical engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with physical science , and life sciences with mathematics and economics, to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms...

 as a discipline at the end of the 19th century, scientific rather than empirical methods could be applied. The developing petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 industry in the early 20th century provided the impetus for the development of accurate design methods such as the McCabe-Thiele method
McCabe-Thiele method
The McCabe-Thiele method was presented by two graduate students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Warren L. McCabe and Ernest W. Thiele in 1925. The technique is considered to be the simplest and perhaps most instructive method for analysis of binary distillation...

 and the Fenske equation
Fenske equation
The Fenske equation in continuous fractional distillation is an equation used for calculating the minimum number of theoretical plates required for the separation of a binary feed stream by a fractionation column that is being operated at total reflux .The equation was derived by Merrell Fenske in...

. The availability of powerful computers has also allowed direct computer simulation
Computer simulation
A computer simulation, a computer model, or a computational model is a computer program, or network of computers, that attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system...

 of distillation columns.

Applications of distillation

The application of distillation can roughly be divided in four groups: laboratory scale, industrial distillation, distillation of herbs for perfumery and medicinals (herbal distillate
Herbal distillate
Herbal distillates are aqueous solutions or colloidal suspensions of essential oils usually obtained by steam distillation from aromatic plants. These herbal distillates have uses as flavorings, medicine and in skin care...

), and food processing. The latter two are distinctively different from the former two in that in the processing of beverages, the distillation is not used as a true purification method but more to transfer all volatiles
Volatility (chemistry)
In chemistry and physics, volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. Volatility is directly related to a substance's vapor pressure. At a given temperature, a substance with higher vapor pressure vaporizes more readily than a substance with a lower vapor pressure.The term is primarily...

 from the source materials to the distillate.

The main difference between laboratory scale distillation and industrial distillation is that laboratory scale distillation is often performed batch-wise, whereas industrial distillation often occurs continuously. In batch distillation
Batch distillation
Batch distillation refers to the use of distillation in batches, meaning that a mixture is distilled to separate it into its component fractions before the distillation still is again charged with more mixture and the process is repeated...

, the composition of the source material, the vapors of the distilling compounds and the distillate change during the distillation. In batch distillation, a still is charged (supplied) with a batch of feed mixture, which is then separated into its component fractions which are collected sequentially from most volatile to less volatile, with the bottoms (remaining least or non-volatile fraction) removed at the end. The still can then be recharged and the process repeated.

In continuous distillation
Continuous distillation
Continuous distillation, a form of distillation, is an ongoing separation in which a mixture is continuously fed into the process and separated fractions are removed continuously as output streams. A distillation is the separation or partial separation of a liquid feed mixture into components or...

, the source materials, vapors, and distillate are kept at a constant composition by carefully replenishing the source material and removing fractions from both vapor and liquid in the system. This results in a better control of the separation process.

Idealized distillation model

The boiling point
Boiling point
The boiling point of an element or a substance is the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid equals the environmental pressure surrounding the liquid....

 of a liquid is the temperature at which the vapor pressure
Vapor pressure
Vapor pressure or equilibrium vapor pressure is the pressure of a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium with its condensed phases in a closed system. All liquids have a tendency to evaporate, and some solids can sublimate into a gaseous form...

 of the liquid equals the pressure in the liquid, enabling bubbles to form without being crushed. A special case is the normal boiling point, where the vapor pressure of the liquid equals the ambient atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure is the force per unit area exerted into a surface by the weight of air above that surface in the atmosphere of Earth . In most circumstances atmospheric pressure is closely approximated by the hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of air above the measurement point...

.

It is a common misconception that in a liquid mixture at a given pressure, each component boils at the boiling point corresponding to the given pressure and the vapors of each component will collect separately and purely. This, however, does not occur even in an idealized system. Idealized models of distillation are essentially governed by Raoult's law and Dalton's law
Dalton's law
In chemistry and physics, Dalton's law states that the total pressure exerted by a gaseous mixture is equal to the sum of the partial pressures of each individual component in a gas mixture...

, and assume that vapor-liquid equilibria
Vapor-liquid equilibrium
Vapor–liquid equilibrium is a condition where a liquid and its vapor are in equilibrium with each other, a condition or state where the rate of evaporation equals the rate of condensation on a molecular level such that there is no net vapor-liquid interconversion...

 are attained.

Raoult's law assumes that a component contributes to the total vapor pressure
Vapor pressure
Vapor pressure or equilibrium vapor pressure is the pressure of a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium with its condensed phases in a closed system. All liquids have a tendency to evaporate, and some solids can sublimate into a gaseous form...

 of the mixture in proportion to its percentage of the mixture and its vapor pressure when pure, or succinctly: partial pressure equals mole fraction multiplied by vapor pressure when pure. If one component changes another component's vapor pressure, or if the volatility of a component is dependent on its percentage in the mixture, the law will fail.

Dalton's law states that the total vapor pressure is the sum of the vapor pressures of each individual component in the mixture. When a multi-component liquid is heated, the vapor pressure of each component will rise, thus causing the total vapor pressure to rise. When the total vapor pressure reaches the pressure surrounding the liquid, boiling
Boiling
Boiling is the rapid vaporization of a liquid, which occurs when a liquid is heated to its boiling point, the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid is equal to the pressure exerted on the liquid by the surrounding environmental pressure. While below the boiling point a liquid...

 occurs and liquid turns to gas throughout the bulk of the liquid. Note that a mixture with a given composition has one boiling point at a given pressure, when the components are mutually soluble.

An implication of one boiling point is that lighter components never cleanly "boil first". At boiling point, all volatile components boil, but for a component, its percentage in the vapor is the same as its percentage of the total vapor pressure. Lighter components have a higher partial pressure and thus are concentrated in the vapor, but heavier volatile components also have a (smaller) partial pressure and necessarily evaporate also, albeit being less concentrated in the vapor. Indeed, batch distillation and fractionation succeed by varying the composition of the mixture. In batch distillation, the batch evaporates, which changes its composition; in fractionation, liquid higher in the fractionation column contains more lights and boils at lower temperatures.

The idealized model is accurate in the case of chemically similar liquids, such as benzene
Benzene
Benzene is an organic chemical compound. It is composed of 6 carbon atoms in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom, with the molecular formula C6H6....

 and toluene
Toluene
Toluene, formerly known as toluol, is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical smell of paint thinners. It is a mono-substituted benzene derivative, i.e., one in which a single hydrogen atom from the benzene molecule has been replaced by a univalent group, in this case CH3.It is an aromatic...

. In other cases, severe deviations from Raoult's law and Dalton's law are observed, most famously in the mixture of ethanol and water. These compounds, when heated together, form an azeotrope
Azeotrope
An azeotrope is a mixture of two or more liquids in such a ratio that its composition cannot be changed by simple distillation. This occurs because, when an azeotrope is boiled, the resulting vapor has the same ratio of constituents as the original mixture....

, which is a composition with a boiling point higher or lower than the boiling point of each separate liquid. Virtually all liquids, when mixed and heated, will display azeotropic behaviour. Although there are computational methods
Computational chemistry
Computational chemistry is a branch of chemistry that uses principles of computer science to assist in solving chemical problems. It uses the results of theoretical chemistry, incorporated into efficient computer programs, to calculate the structures and properties of molecules and solids...

 that can be used to estimate the behavior of a mixture of arbitrary components, the only way to obtain accurate vapor-liquid equilibrium
Vapor-liquid equilibrium
Vapor–liquid equilibrium is a condition where a liquid and its vapor are in equilibrium with each other, a condition or state where the rate of evaporation equals the rate of condensation on a molecular level such that there is no net vapor-liquid interconversion...

 data is by measurement.

It is not possible to completely purify a mixture of components by distillation, as this would require each component in the mixture to have a zero partial pressure
Partial pressure
In a mixture of ideal gases, each gas has a partial pressure which is the pressure which the gas would have if it alone occupied the volume. The total pressure of a gas mixture is the sum of the partial pressures of each individual gas in the mixture....

. If ultra-pure products are the goal, then further chemical separation must be applied. When a binary mixture is evaporated and the other component, e.g. a salt, has zero partial pressure for practical purposes, the process is simpler and is called evaporation
Evaporation
Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs only on the surface of a liquid. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which, instead, occurs on the entire mass of the liquid....

 in engineering.

Batch distillation

Heating an ideal mixture of two volatile substances A and B (with A having the higher volatility, or lower boiling point) in a batch distillation setup (such as in an apparatus depicted in the opening figure) until the mixture is boiling results in a vapor above the liquid which contains a mixture of A and B. The ratio between A and B in the vapor will be different from the ratio in the liquid: the ratio in the liquid will be determined by how the original mixture was prepared, while the ratio in the vapor will be enriched in the more volatile compound, A (due to Raoult's Law, see above). The vapor goes through the condenser and is removed from the system. This in turn means that the ratio of compounds in the remaining liquid is now different from the initial ratio (i.e. more enriched in B than the starting liquid).

The result is that the ratio in the liquid mixture is changing, becoming richer in component B. This causes the boiling point of the mixture to rise, which in turn results in a rise in the temperature in the vapor, which results in a changing ratio of A : B in the gas phase (as distillation continues, there is an increasing proportion of B in the gas phase). This results in a slowly changing ratio A : B in the distillate.

If the difference in vapor pressure between the two components A and B is large (generally expressed as the difference in boiling points), the mixture in the beginning of the distillation is highly enriched in component A, and when component A has distilled off, the boiling liquid is enriched in component B.

Continuous distillation

Continuous distillation is an ongoing distillation in which a liquid mixture is continuously (without interruption) fed into the process and separated fractions are removed continuously as output streams as time passes during the operation. Continuous distillation produces at least two output fractions, including at least one volatile
Volatility (chemistry)
In chemistry and physics, volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. Volatility is directly related to a substance's vapor pressure. At a given temperature, a substance with higher vapor pressure vaporizes more readily than a substance with a lower vapor pressure.The term is primarily...

 distillate fraction, which has boiled and been separately captured as a vapor condensed to a liquid. There is always a bottoms (or residue) fraction, which is the least volatile residue that has not been separately captured as a condensed vapor.

Continuous distillation differs from batch distillation in the respect that concentrations should not change over time. Continuous distillation can be run at a steady state
Steady state
A system in a steady state has numerous properties that are unchanging in time. This implies that for any property p of the system, the partial derivative with respect to time is zero:...

 for an arbitrary amount of time. For any source material of specific composition, the main variables that affect the purity of products in continuous distillation are the reflux ratio and the number of theoretical equilibrium stages (practically, the number of trays or the height of packing). Reflux is a flow from the condenser back to the column, which generates a recycle that allows a better separation with a given number of trays. Equilibrium stages are ideal steps where compositions achieve vapor-liquid equilibrium, repeating the separation process and allowing better separation given a reflux ratio. A column with a high reflux ratio may have fewer stages, but it refluxes a large amount of liquid, giving a wide column with a large holdup. Conversely, a column with a low reflux ratio must have a large number of stages, thus requiring a taller column.

General improvements

Both batch and continuous distillations can be improved by making use of a fractionating column
Fractionating column
A fractionating column or fractionation column is an essential item used in the distillation of liquid mixtures so as to separate the mixture into its component parts, or fractions, based on the differences in their volatilities...

 on top of the distillation flask. The column improves separation by providing a larger surface area for the vapor and condensate to come into contact. This helps it remain at equilibrium for as long as possible. The column can even consist of small subsystems ('trays' or 'dishes') which all contain an enriched, boiling liquid mixture, all with their own vapor-liquid equilibrium.

There are differences between laboratory-scale and industrial-scale fractionating columns, but the principles are the same. Examples of laboratory-scale fractionating columns (in increasing efficiency) include:
  • Air condenser
  • Vigreux column (usually laboratory scale only)
  • Packed column
    Packed bed
    In chemical processing, a packed bed is a hollow tube, pipe, or other vessel that is filled with a packing material. The packing can be randomly filled with small objects like Raschig rings or else it can be a specifically designed structured packing...

     (packed with glass beads, metal pieces, or other chemically inert material)
  • Spinning band distillation
    Spinning band distillation
    Spinning band distillation is a technique used to separate liquid mixtures which are similar in boiling points. When liquids with similar boiling points are distilled, the vapors are mixtures, and not pure compounds. Fractionating columns help separate the mixture by allowing the mixed vapors to...

     system.

Laboratory scale distillation

Laboratory scale distillations are almost exclusively run as batch distillations. The device used in distillation, sometimes referred to as a still
Still
A still is a permanent apparatus used to distill miscible or immiscible liquid mixtures by heating to selectively boil and then cooling to condense the vapor...

, consists at a minimum of a reboiler or pot in which the source material is heated, a condenser in which the heated vapour
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

 is cooled back to the liquid state
Phase (matter)
In the physical sciences, a phase is a region of space , throughout which all physical properties of a material are essentially uniform. Examples of physical properties include density, index of refraction, and chemical composition...

, and a receiver in which the concentrated or purified liquid, called the distillate, is collected. Several laboratory scale techniques for distillation exist (see also distillation types).

Simple distillation

In simple distillation, all the hot vapors produced are immediately channeled into a condenser that cools and condenses the vapors. Therefore, the distillate will not be pure - its composition will be identical to the composition of the vapors at the given temperature and pressure, and can be computed from Raoult's law.

As a result, simple distillation is usually used only to separate liquids whose boiling points differ greatly (rule of thumb is 25 °C), or to separate liquids from involatile solids or oils. For these cases, the vapor pressures of the components are usually sufficiently different that Raoult's law may be neglected due to the insignificant contribution of the less volatile component. In this case, the distillate may be sufficiently pure for its intended purpose.

Fractional distillation

For many cases, the boiling points of the components in the mixture will be sufficiently close that Raoult's law must be taken into consideration. Therefore, fractional distillation must be used in order to separate the components well by repeated vaporization-condensation cycles within a packed fractionating column. This separation, by successive distillations, is also referred to as rectification.

As the solution to be purified is heated, its vapors rise to the fractionating column
Fractionating column
A fractionating column or fractionation column is an essential item used in the distillation of liquid mixtures so as to separate the mixture into its component parts, or fractions, based on the differences in their volatilities...

. As it rises, it cools, condensing on the condenser walls and the surfaces of the packing material. Here, the condensate continues to be heated by the rising hot vapors; it vaporizes once more. However, the composition of the fresh vapors are determined once again by Raoult's law. Each vaporization-condensation cycle (called a theoretical plate
Theoretical plate
A theoretical plate in many separation processes is a hypothetical zone or stage in which two phases, such as the liquid and vapor phases of a substance, establish an equilibrium with each other. Such equilibrium stages may also be referred to as an equilibrium stage, ideal stage or a theoretical...

) will yield a purer solution of the more volatile component. In reality, each cycle at a given temperature does not occur at exactly the same position in the fractionating column; theoretical plate is thus a concept rather than an accurate description.

More theoretical plates lead to better separations. A spinning band distillation
Spinning band distillation
Spinning band distillation is a technique used to separate liquid mixtures which are similar in boiling points. When liquids with similar boiling points are distilled, the vapors are mixtures, and not pure compounds. Fractionating columns help separate the mixture by allowing the mixed vapors to...

 system uses a spinning band of Teflon
Polytetrafluoroethylene
Polytetrafluoroethylene is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that finds numerous applications. PTFE is most well known by the DuPont brand name Teflon....

 or metal to force the rising vapors into close contact with the descending condensate, increasing the number of theoretical plates.

Steam distillation

Like vacuum distillation
Vacuum distillation
Vacuum distillation is a method of distillation whereby the pressure above the liquid mixture to be distilled is reduced to less than its vapor pressure causing evaporation of the most volatile liquid...

, steam distillation is a method for distilling compounds which are heat-sensitive. The temperature of the steam is easier to control than the surface of a heating element, and allows a high rate of heat transfer without heating at a very high temperature. This process involves bubbling steam through a heated mixture of the raw material. By Raoult's law, some of the target compound will vaporize (in accordance with its partial pressure). The vapor mixture is cooled and condensed, usually yielding a layer of oil and a layer of water.

Steam distillation of various aromatic herbs and flowers can result in two products; an essential oil
Essential oil
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove...

 as well as a watery herbal distillate
Herbal distillate
Herbal distillates are aqueous solutions or colloidal suspensions of essential oils usually obtained by steam distillation from aromatic plants. These herbal distillates have uses as flavorings, medicine and in skin care...

. The essential oils are often used in perfumery and aromatherapy
Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person's mind, mood, cognitive function or health....

 while the watery distillates have many applications in aromatherapy
Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person's mind, mood, cognitive function or health....

, food processing
Food processing
Food processing is the set of methods and techniques used to transform raw ingredients into food or to transform food into other forms for consumption by humans or animals either in the home or by the food processing industry...

 and skin care.

Vacuum distillation

Some compounds have very high boiling points. To boil such compounds, it is often better to lower the pressure at which such compounds are boiled instead of increasing the temperature. Once the pressure is lowered to the vapor pressure of the compound (at the given temperature), boiling and the rest of the distillation process can commence. This technique is referred to as vacuum distillation and it is commonly found in the laboratory in the form of the rotary evaporator
Rotary evaporator
A rotary evaporator is a device used in chemical laboratories for the efficient and gentle removal of solvents from samples by evaporation...

.

This technique is also very useful for compounds which boil beyond their decomposition temperature at atmospheric pressure and which would therefore be decomposed by any attempt to boil them under atmospheric pressure.

Molecular distillation is vacuum distillation below the pressure of 0.01 torr. 0.01 torr is one order of magnitude above high vacuum, where fluids are in the free molecular flow
Free molecular flow
Free molecular flow describes the fluid dynamics of gas where the mean free path of the molecules is larger than the size of the chamber or of the object under test. For tubes/objects of the size of several cm, these means pressures well below 10-3 torr. This is also called the regime of high...

 regime, i.e. the mean free path
Mean free path
In physics, the mean free path is the average distance covered by a moving particle between successive impacts which modify its direction or energy or other particle properties.-Derivation:...

 of molecules is comparable to the size of the equipment. The gaseous phase no longer exerts significant pressure on the substance to be evaporated, and consequently, rate of evaporation no longer depends on pressure. That is, because the continuum assumptions of fluid dynamics no longer apply, mass transport is governed by molecular dynamics rather than fluid dynamics. Thus, a short path between the hot surface and the cold surface is necessary, typically by suspending a hot plate covered with a film of feed next to a cold plate with a line of sight in between. Molecular distillation is used industrially for purification of oils.

Air-sensitive vacuum distillation

Some compounds have high boiling points as well as being air sensitive
Air sensitive
Air sensitivity is a term used, in particular in chemistry, to denote the reactivity of chemical compounds with some constituent of air. Most often, reactions occur with atmospheric oxygen or water vapor , although reactions with the other constituents of air such as carbon monoxide , carbon...

. A simple vacuum distillation system as exemplified above can be used, whereby the vacuum is replaced with an inert gas after the distillation is complete. However, this is a less satisfactory system if one desires to collect fractions under a reduced pressure. To do this a "cow" or "pig" adaptor can be added to the end of the condenser, or for better results or for very air sensitive compounds a Perkin triangle
Perkin triangle
A Perkin triangle is a specialized apparatus for the distillation of air-sensitive materials. It is named after William Henry Perkin Jr., whose design was approximately triangular in shape. The image opposite shows a more modern version in which the glass taps have been replaced with more air-tight...

 apparatus can be used.

The Perkin triangle, has means via a series of glass or Teflon
Polytetrafluoroethylene
Polytetrafluoroethylene is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that finds numerous applications. PTFE is most well known by the DuPont brand name Teflon....

 taps to allows fractions to be isolated from the rest of the still
Still
A still is a permanent apparatus used to distill miscible or immiscible liquid mixtures by heating to selectively boil and then cooling to condense the vapor...

, without the main body of the distillation being removed from either the vacuum or heat source, and thus can remain in a state of reflux
Reflux
Reflux is a technique involving the condensation of vapors and the return of this condensate to the system from which it originated. It is used in industrial and laboratory distillations...

. To do this, the sample is first isolated from the vacuum by means of the taps, the vacuum over the sample is then replaced with an inert gas (such as nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 or argon
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

) and can then be stoppered and removed. A fresh collection vessel can then be added to the system, evacuated and linked back into the distillation system via the taps to collect a second fraction, and so on, until all fractions have been collected.

Short path distillation

Short path distillation is a distillation technique that involves the distillate travelling a short distance, often only a few centimeters, and is normally done at reduced pressure. A classic example would be a distillation involving the distillate travelling from one glass bulb to another, without the need for a condenser separating the two chambers. This technique is often used for compounds which are unstable at high temperatures or to purify small amounts of compound. The advantage is that the heating temperature can be considerably lower (at reduced pressure) than the boiling point of the liquid at standard pressure, and the distillate only has to travel a short distance before condensing. A short path ensures that little compound is lost on the sides of the apparatus. The Kugelrohr
Kugelrohr
A Kugelrohr is a short-path vacuum distillation apparatus typically used to distill relatively small amounts of compounds with high boiling points under greatly reduced pressure.-Design:...

 is a kind of a short path distillation apparatus which often contain multiple chambers to collect distillate fractions.

Other types

  • The process of reactive distillation
    Reactive distillation
    Reactive distillation is a process where the chemical reactor is also the still. Separation of the product from the reaction mixture does not need a separate distillation step, which saves energy and materials....

     involves using the reaction vessel as the still. In this process, the product is usually significantly lower-boiling than its reactants. As the product is formed from the reactants, it is vaporized and removed from the reaction mixture. This technique is an example of a continuous vs. a batch process; advantages include less downtime to charge the reaction vessel with starting material, and less workup.
  • Pervaporation
    Pervaporation
    Pervaporation is a membrane technical method for the separation of mixtures of liquids by partial vaporization through a non-porous or porous membrane.-Theory:...

     is a method for the separation of mixtures of liquids by partial vaporization through a non-porous membrane
    Artificial membrane
    An artificial membrane, or synthetic membrane, is a synthetically created membrane which is usually intended for separation purposes in laboratory or in industry. Synthetic membranes have been successfully used for small and large-scale industrial processes since the middle of twentieth century. A...

    .
  • Extractive distillation
    Extractive distillation
    Extractive distillation is defined as distillation in the presence of a miscible, high boiling, relatively non-volatile component, the solvent, that forms no azeotrope with the other components in the mixture. The method is used for mixtures having a low value of relative volatility, nearing unity...

     is defined as distillation in the presence of a miscible, high boiling, relatively non-volatile component, the solvent, that forms no azeotrope with the other components in the mixture.
  • Flash evaporation
    Flash evaporation
    Flash evaporation is the partial vapor that occurs when a saturated liquid stream undergoes a reduction in pressure by passing through a throttling valve or other throttling device. This process is one of the simplest unit operations...

     (or partial evaporation) is the partial vaporization that occurs when a saturated liquid stream undergoes a reduction in pressure by passing through a throttling valve
    Valve
    A valve is a device that regulates, directs or controls the flow of a fluid by opening, closing, or partially obstructing various passageways. Valves are technically pipe fittings, but are usually discussed as a separate category...

     or other throttling device. This process is one of the simplest unit operations, being equivalent to a distillation with only one equilibrium stage.
  • Codistillation is distillation which is performed on mixtures in which the two compounds are not miscible.


The unit process of evaporation
Evaporation
Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs only on the surface of a liquid. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which, instead, occurs on the entire mass of the liquid....

 may also be called "distillation":
  • In rotary evaporation a vacuum distillation apparatus is used to remove bulk solvent
    Solvent
    A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

    s from a sample. Typically the vacuum is generated by a water aspirator
    Aspirator
    An aspirator, also called an eductor-jet pump or filter pump, is a device that produces vacuum by means of the Venturi effect. In an aspirator, fluid flows through a tube which then narrows. When the tube narrows, the fluid's speed increases, and because of the Venturi effect, its pressure...

     or a membrane pump.
  • In a kugelrohr
    Kugelrohr
    A Kugelrohr is a short-path vacuum distillation apparatus typically used to distill relatively small amounts of compounds with high boiling points under greatly reduced pressure.-Design:...

     a short path distillation apparatus is typically used (generally in combination with a (high) vacuum) to distill high boiling (> 300 °C) compounds. The apparatus consists of an oven in which the compound to be distilled is placed, a receiving portion which is outside of the oven, and a means of rotating the sample. The vacuum is normally generated by using a high vacuum pump.


Other uses:
  • Dry distillation
    Dry distillation
    Dry distillation is the heating of solid materials to produce gaseous products . The method may or may not involve pyrolysis/thermolysis. The products are condensed and collected. This method usually requires higher temperatures than classical distillation. The method has been used to obtain...

     or destructive distillation
    Destructive distillation
    Destructive distillation is the chemical process involving the decomposition of feedstock by heating to a high temperature; the term generally applies to processing of organic material in the absence of air or in the presence of limited amounts of oxygen or other reagents, catalysts, or solvents,...

    , despite the name, is not truly distillation, but rather a chemical reaction
    Chemical reaction
    A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

     known as pyrolysis
    Pyrolysis
    Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures without the participation of oxygen. It involves the simultaneous change of chemical composition and physical phase, and is irreversible...

     in which solid substances are heated in an inert or reducing
    Redox
    Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

     atmosphere and any volatile fractions, containing high-boiling liquids and products of pyrolysis, are collected. The destructive distillation of wood
    Wood
    Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

     to give methanol
    Methanol
    Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH . It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol...

     is the root of its common name - wood alcohol.
  • Freeze distillation is an analogous method of purification using freezing
    Freezing
    Freezing or solidification is a phase change in which a liquid turns into a solid when its temperature is lowered below its freezing point. The reverse process is melting....

     instead of evaporation. It is not truly distillation, but a recrystallization
    Recrystallization (chemistry)
    -Chemistry:In chemistry, recrystallization is a procedure for purifying compounds. The most typical situation is that a desired "compound A" is contaminated by a small amount of "impurity B". There are various methods of purification that may be attempted , which includes recrystallization...

     where the product is the mother liquor
    Mother liquor
    A mother liquor is the part of a solution that is left over after crystallization. It is encountered in chemical processes including sugar refining....

    , and does not produce products equivalent to distillation. This process is used in the production of ice beer and ice wine
    Ice wine
    Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more...

     to increase ethanol and sugar
    Sugar
    Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

     content, respectively. It is also used to produce applejack
    Applejack (beverage)
    Applejack is a strong alcoholic beverage produced from apples, popular in the American colonial period.Applejack was historically made by concentrating hard cider, either by the traditional method of freeze distillation or by true evaporative distillation. The term applejack derives from jacking, a...

    . Unlike distillation, freeze distillation concentrates poisonous congeners rather than removing them.

Azeotropic distillation

Interactions between the components of the solution create properties unique to the solution, as most processes entail nonideal mixtures, where Raoult's law does not hold. Such interactions can result in a constant-boiling azeotrope
Azeotrope
An azeotrope is a mixture of two or more liquids in such a ratio that its composition cannot be changed by simple distillation. This occurs because, when an azeotrope is boiled, the resulting vapor has the same ratio of constituents as the original mixture....

which behaves as if it were a pure compound (i.e., boils at a single temperature instead of a range). At an azeotrope, the solution contains the given component in the same proportion as the vapor, so that evaporation does not change the purity, and distillation does not effect separation. For example, ethyl alcohol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

 and water form an azeotrope of 95.6% at 78.1 °C.

If the azeotrope is not considered sufficiently pure for use, there exist some techniques to break the azeotrope to give a pure distillate. This set of techniques are known as azeotropic distillation. Some techniques achieve this by "jumping" over the azeotropic composition (by adding an additional component to create a new azeotrope, or by varying the pressure). Others work by chemically or physically removing or sequestering the impurity. For example, to purify ethanol beyond 95%, a drying agent or a (desiccant
Desiccant
A desiccant is a hygroscopic substance that induces or sustains a state of dryness in its local vicinity in a moderately well-sealed container....

 such as potassium carbonate
Potassium carbonate
Potassium carbonate is a white salt, soluble in water , which forms a strongly alkaline solution. It can be made as the product of potassium hydroxide's absorbent reaction with carbon dioxide. It is deliquescent, often appearing a damp or wet solid...

) can be added to convert the soluble water into insoluble water of crystallization
Water of crystallization
In crystallography, water of crystallization or water of hydration or crystallization water is water that occurs in crystals. Water of crystallization is necessary for the maintenance of crystalline properties, but capable of being removed by sufficient heat...

. Molecular sieve
Molecular sieve
A molecular sieve is a material containing tiny pores of a precise and uniform size that is used as an adsorbent for gases and liquids.Molecules small enough to pass through the pores are adsorbed while larger molecules are not. It is different from a common filter in that it operates on a...

s are often used for this purpose as well.

Immiscible liquids, such as water and toluene, easily form azeotropes. Commonly, these azeotropes are referred to as a low boiling azeotrope because the boiling point of the azeotrope is lower than the boiling point of either pure component. The temperature and composition of the azeotrope is easily predicted from the vapor pressure of the pure components, without use of Raoult's law. The azeotrope is easily broken in a distillation set-up by using a liquid-liquid separator (a decanter) to separate the two liquid layers that are condensed overhead. Only one of the two liquid layers is refluxed to the distillation set-up.

High boiling azeotropes, such as a 20 weight percent mixture of hydrochloric acid in water, also exist. As implied by the name, the boiling point of the azeotrope is greater than the boiling point of either pure component.

To break azeotropic distillations and cross distillation boundaries, such as in the DeRosier Problem, it is necessary to increase the composition of the light key in the distillate.

Breaking an azeotrope with unidirectional pressure manipulation

The boiling points of components in an azeotrope overlap to form a band. By exposing an azeotrope to a vacuum or positive pressure, it's possible to bias the boiling point of one component away from the other by exploiting the differing vapour pressure curves of each; the curves may overlap at the azeotropic point, but are unlikely to be remain identical further along the pressure axis either side of the azeotropic point. When the bias is great enough, the two boiling points no longer overlap and so the azeotropic band disappears.

This method can remove the need to add other chemicals to a distillation, but it has two potential drawbacks.

Under negative pressure, power for a vacuum source is needed and the reduced boiling points of the distillates requires that the condenser be run cooler to prevent distillate vapours being lost to the vacuum source. Increased cooling demands will often require additional energy and possibly new equipment or a change of coolant.

Alternatively, if positive pressures are required, standard glassware can not be used, energy must be used for pressurization and there is a higher chance of side reactions occurring in the distillation, such as decomposition, due to the higher temperatures required to effect boiling.

A unidirectional distillation will rely on a pressure change in one direction, either positive or negative.

Pressure-swing distillation

Pressure-swing distillation is essentially the same as the unidirectional distillation used to break azeotropic mixtures, but here both positive and negative pressures may be employed.

This has an important impact on the selectivity of the distillation and allows a chemist to optimize a process such that fewer extremes of pressure and temperature are required and less energy is consumed. This is particularly important in commercial applications.

Pressure-swing distillation is employed during the industrial purification of ethyl acetate
Ethyl acetate
Ethyl acetate is the organic compound with the formula CH3COOCH2CH3. This colorless liquid has a characteristic sweet smell and is used in glues, nail polish removers, and cigarettes...

 after its catalytic synthesis from ethanol.

Industrial distillation


Large scale industrial distillation applications include both batch and continuous fractional, vacuum, azeotropic, extractive, and steam distillation. The most widely used industrial applications of continuous, steady-state fractional distillation are in petroleum refineries
Oil refinery
An oil refinery or petroleum refinery is an industrial process plant where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas...

, petrochemical
Petrochemical
Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane....

 and chemical plant
Chemical plant
A chemical plant is an industrial process plant that manufactures chemicals, usually on a large scale. The general objective of a chemical plant is to create new material wealth via the chemical or biological transformation and or separation of materials. Chemical plants use special equipment,...

s and natural gas processing
Natural gas processing
Natural-gas processing is a complex industrial process designed to clean raw natural gas by separating impurities and various non-methane hydrocarbons and fluids to produce what is known as pipeline quality dry natural gas.-Background:...

 plants.

Industrial distillation is typically performed in large, vertical cylindrical columns known as distillation towers or distillation columns with diameters ranging from about 65 centimeters to 16 meters and heights ranging from about 6 meters to 90 meters or more. When the process feed has a diverse composition, as in distilling crude oil, liquid outlets at intervals up the column allow for the withdrawal of different fractions or products having different boiling points
Boiling Points
Boiling Points is a prank reality television show, much like the format used on Candid Camera. It is broadcast on MTV in the United States. In each half-hour episode, annoying situations are set up and deliberately inflicted on one or more young adults who are unaware that they are being tested...

 or boiling ranges. The "lightest" products (those with the lowest boiling point) exit from the top of the columns and the "heaviest" products (those with the highest boiling point) exit from the bottom of the column and are often called the bottoms.

Industrial towers use reflux
Reflux
Reflux is a technique involving the condensation of vapors and the return of this condensate to the system from which it originated. It is used in industrial and laboratory distillations...

 to achieve a more complete separation of products. Reflux refers to the portion of the condensed overhead liquid product from a distillation or fractionation tower that is returned to the upper part of the tower as shown in the schematic diagram of a typical, large-scale industrial distillation tower. Inside the tower, the downflowing reflux liquid provides cooling and condensation of the upflowing vapors thereby increasing the efficiency of the distillation tower. The more reflux that is provided for a given number of theoretical plate
Theoretical plate
A theoretical plate in many separation processes is a hypothetical zone or stage in which two phases, such as the liquid and vapor phases of a substance, establish an equilibrium with each other. Such equilibrium stages may also be referred to as an equilibrium stage, ideal stage or a theoretical...

s, the better the tower's separation of lower boiling materials from higher boiling materials. Alternatively, the more reflux that is provided for a given desired separation, the fewer the number of theoretical plates required.

Such industrial fractionating towers are also used in air separation, producing liquid oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at a very low temperature. It is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is a colourless clear liquid with density of 0.807 g/mL at its boiling point and a dielectric constant of 1.4...

, and high purity argon
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

. Distillation of chlorosilane
Chlorosilane
Chlorosilanes are a group of reactive, chlorine-containing chemical compounds, related to silane and used in many chemical processes. Each such chemical has at least one silicon-chlorine bond.-Synthesis:...

s also enables the production of high-purity silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

 for use as a semiconductor
Semiconductor
A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

.

Design and operation of a distillation tower depends on the feed and desired products. Given a simple, binary component feed, analytical methods such as the McCabe-Thiele method
McCabe-Thiele method
The McCabe-Thiele method was presented by two graduate students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Warren L. McCabe and Ernest W. Thiele in 1925. The technique is considered to be the simplest and perhaps most instructive method for analysis of binary distillation...

 or the Fenske equation
Fenske equation
The Fenske equation in continuous fractional distillation is an equation used for calculating the minimum number of theoretical plates required for the separation of a binary feed stream by a fractionation column that is being operated at total reflux .The equation was derived by Merrell Fenske in...

 can be used. For a multi-component feed, simulation
Simulation
Simulation is the imitation of some real thing available, state of affairs, or process. The act of simulating something generally entails representing certain key characteristics or behaviours of a selected physical or abstract system....

 models are used both for design and operation. Moreover, the efficiencies of the vapor-liquid contact devices (referred to as "plates" or "trays") used in distillation towers are typically lower than that of a theoretical 100% efficient equilibrium stage. Hence, a distillation tower needs more trays than the number of theoretical vapor-liquid equilibrium stages.

In modern industrial uses, generally a packing material is used in the column instead of trays, especially when low pressure drops across the column are required, as when operating under vacuum.
This packing material can either be random dumped packing (1-3" wide) such as Raschig ring
Raschig ring
Raschig rings are pieces of tube used in large numbers as a packed bed within columns for distillations and other chemical engineering processes. They are usually ceramic or metal and provide a large surface area within the volume of the column for interaction between liquid and gas or vapour...

s or structured sheet metal
Structured packing
The term structured packing refers to a range of specially designed materials for use in absorption and distillation columns and chemical reactors...

. Liquids tend to wet the surface of the packing and the vapors pass across this wetted surface, where mass transfer
Mass transfer
Mass transfer is the net movement of mass from one location, usually meaning a stream, phase, fraction or component, to another. Mass transfer occurs in many processes, such as absorption, evaporation, adsorption, drying, precipitation, membrane filtration, and distillation. Mass transfer is used...

 takes place. Unlike conventional tray distillation in which every tray represents a separate point of vapor-liquid equilibrium, the vapor-liquid equilibrium curve in a packed column is continuous. However, when modeling packed columns, it is useful to compute a number of "theoretical stages" to denote the separation efficiency of the packed column with respect to more traditional trays. Differently shaped packings have different surface areas and void space between packings. Both of these factors affect packing performance.

Another factor in addition to the packing shape and surface area that affects the performance of random or structured packing is the liquid and vapor distribution entering the packed bed. The number of theoretical stages
Theoretical plate
A theoretical plate in many separation processes is a hypothetical zone or stage in which two phases, such as the liquid and vapor phases of a substance, establish an equilibrium with each other. Such equilibrium stages may also be referred to as an equilibrium stage, ideal stage or a theoretical...

 required to make a given separation is calculated using a specific vapor to liquid ratio. If the liquid and vapor are not evenly distributed across the superficial tower area as it enters the packed bed, the liquid to vapor ratio will not be correct in the packed bed and the required separation will not be achieved. The packing will appear to not be working properly. The height equivalent of a theoretical plate
Theoretical plate
A theoretical plate in many separation processes is a hypothetical zone or stage in which two phases, such as the liquid and vapor phases of a substance, establish an equilibrium with each other. Such equilibrium stages may also be referred to as an equilibrium stage, ideal stage or a theoretical...

 (HETP) will be greater than expected. The problem is not the packing itself but the mal-distribution of the fluids entering the packed bed. Liquid mal-distribution is more frequently the problem than vapor. The design of the liquid distributors used to introduce the feed and reflux to a packed bed is critical to making the packing perform to it maximum efficiency. Methods of evaluating the effectiveness of a liquid distributor to evenly distribute the liquid entering a packed bed can be found in references. Considerable work as been done on this topic by Fractionation Research, Inc. (commonly known as FRI).

Multi-effect distillation

The goal of multi-effect distillation is to increase the energy efficiency of the process, for use in desalination, or in some cases one stage in the production of ultrapure water. The number of effects is proportional to the kW·h/m3 of water recovered figure, and refers to the volume of water recovered per unit of energy compared with single-effect distillation. One effect is roughly 636 kW·h/m3.
  • Multi-stage flash distillation Can achieve more than 20 effects with thermal energy input, as mentioned in the article.

  • Vapor compression evaporation Commercial large-scale units can achieve around 72 effects with electrical energy input, according to manufacturers.


There are many other types of multi-effect distillation processes, including one referred to as simply multi-effect distillation (MED), in which multiple chambers, with intervening heat exchangers, are employed.

Distilled beverages

Carbohydrate
Carbohydrate
A carbohydrate is an organic compound with the empirical formula ; that is, consists only of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, with a hydrogen:oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 . However, there are exceptions to this. One common example would be deoxyribose, a component of DNA, which has the empirical...

-containing plant materials are allowed to ferment, producing a dilute solution of ethanol in the process. Spirits such as whiskey and rum
Rum
Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak barrels...

 are prepared by distilling these dilute solutions of ethanol. Components other than ethanol, including water, esters, and other alcohols, are collected in the condensate, which account for the flavor of the beverage.

Gallery

Chemistry on its beginnings used retort
Retort
In a chemistry laboratory, a retort is a glassware device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances. It consists of a spherical vessel with a long downward-pointing neck. The liquid to be distilled is placed in the vessel and heated...

s as laboratory equipment
Laboratory equipment
Laboratory equipment refers to the various tools and equipment used by scientists working in a laboratory. These include tools such as Bunsen burners, and microscopes as well as speciality equipment such as operant conditioning chambers, spectrophotometers and calorimeters...

 exclusively for distillation processes.
A simple set-up to distill dry and oxygen-free toluene
Toluene
Toluene, formerly known as toluol, is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical smell of paint thinners. It is a mono-substituted benzene derivative, i.e., one in which a single hydrogen atom from the benzene molecule has been replaced by a univalent group, in this case CH3.It is an aromatic...

.
Diagram of an industrial-scale vacuum distillation column as commonly used in oil refineries
Oil refinery
An oil refinery or petroleum refinery is an industrial process plant where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas...

A rotary evaporator
Rotary evaporator
A rotary evaporator is a device used in chemical laboratories for the efficient and gentle removal of solvents from samples by evaporation...

 is able to distill solvents more quickly at lower temperatures through the use of a vacuum
Vacuum
In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

.
Distillation using semi-microscale apparatus. The jointless design eliminates the need to fit pieces together. The pear-shaped flask allows the last drop of residue to be removed, compared with a similarly-sized round-bottom flask
Round-bottom flask
Round-bottom flasks are types of flasks having spherical bottoms used as laboratory glassware, mostly for chemical or biochemical work. They are typically made of glass for chemical inertness; and in modern days, they are usually made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass...

The small holdup volume prevents losses. A pig is used to channel the various distillates into three receiving flasks. If necessary the distillation can be carried out under vacuum using the vacuum adapter at the pig.

Further reading


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK