Types of distillation | Method with Interesting Examples in Detail

Distillation is a process of separation of a specific substance from a liquid mixture by evaporating and subsequent cooling into a separate chamber. There are different types of distillation, like

  1. Simple distillation
  2. Fractional distillation
  3. Steam distillation
  4. Vacuum distillation
  5. Azeotropic distillation

Types of distillation in detail

Simple distillation

types of distillation- simple distillation

Here, a liquid mixture is heated in a conical flask. This leads to the evaporation of liquid with low boiling first. This vapor is allowed to cool while passing through the cooling chamber. The resultant liquid formed from cooled vapor is collected in a separate flask.

Fractional distillation

Types of distillation-fractional distillation

This is similar to simple distillation with the only addition of a fractionating column. This column is present in between the flask and condenser. This column helps to convert some of the vapor back to a liquid, which drains back into the vial. This process leads to the escape of only a vaporable portion into the condenser. Thus, this procedure helps obtain a pure form of substance that is not achieved by simple distillation.

Steam distillation

As the name indicates, steam is used here for the separation of the liquid mixture. A steady flow of steam is passed into a liquid mixture present in a round bottom flask. This steam carries away one of the liquids from the container and gets cooled in the cooling chamber. The fluid formed by cooling is collected separately.

Types of distillation- steam distillation

This type of distillation is used to separate high-boiling substances from non-volatile impurities. For example, turpentine oil boils in pure form at 160°C. When mixed with water, this turpentine oil boils at 96°C. At this temperature, the vapor pressure of water is 647mm Hg, and that of oil is 113mmHg. The combined sum is 760mmHg, which is equivalent to atmospheric pressure.

So, to separate turpentine from impurities, it is mixed with water and then distilled by passing steam. The steam carries turpentine vapors and gets cooled in a condenser. This is collected in a separate flask, and it can be easily separated since the water and turpentine oil are immiscible.

Vacuum distillation

This is similar to simple distillation, with the only exception being the use of a vacuum to evaporate liquid at low temperatures. A liquid boils and converts into vapor when the vapor pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure. In this procedure, the vacuum is applied to remove the atmospheric pressure. Due to this, at relatively low temperatures, the vapor forms, which is separated and cooled. Thus, vacuum distillation is very useful for separating heat-sensitive substances.

Azeotropic distillation

This process, as the name indicates, involves specific changes in the material during the distillation process. When a mixture contains two liquids with similar boiling points, they cannot be efficiently separated using simple distillation. Hence, one of the substance’s boiling points is enhanced due to changes in its chemistry. Due to this, the other one boils first, and it is allowed to evaporate and cool into a separate flask.

An example of azeotropic distillation is a mixture of water and ethanol. Both have similar boiling points. So, glycerin is added to this mixture to enhance the boiling point of water. Now, when this mixture is heated, ethyl alcohol boils first and evaporates out. The ethyl alcohol is collected separately as the vapors get cooled.

Double distillation

This is a method wherein the condensate from the first distillation is again heated. This forms vapors and again cools down to form liquid. This method is routinely used to obtain double distilled water.

Triple distillation

Here, the condensate from double distillation is heated to vapors. The formed vapors are cooled like above to get triple distilled liquid. Water is mostly obtained as triple distilled water. This water is preferred for laboratory research like HPLC chromatography, making buffers, etc.

This method of multiple distillations is said to remove dissolved salts and other substances. It minimizes the conductivity and enhances the purity of water.

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