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Separation Methods: Distillation

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Separation Methods

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Separation Methods: Distillation


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You will use the concept of distillation to physically separate homogeneous mixtures of liquids into separate components.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Describe distillation as a method to separate homogeneous liquid mixtures through vaporization and condensation.
  • Explain that distillation depends upon the different boiling points of a mixture’s components.
  • Describe mixtures of salt water, ethanol-water mixtures, and crude oil, as solutions that are commonly separated through distillation.
  • Identify the apparatus used in laboratory distillation.
  • Describe the correct sequence during laboratory distillation to separate homogeneous mixtures of mixed liquids.

Everything You'll Have Covered

Distillation is defined as a physical method to separate components in a homogeneous liquid by means of vaporization and condensation. Distillation works on the principle of using the different boiling points of a liquid's components to effectively separate the substances. There are three main types of distillation used to produce a variety of substances: Simple distillation works well when the liquid mixture contains components that have very large boiling point differences. This allows the lower boiling point component to distill off first and be collected as distillate. This type of distillation can easily be done in science laboratories. However, this method will usually result in the distillate containing some of the higher boiling point component, so it is not 100% effective. Salt water and brackish water can be distilled or desalinated to make drinking water. Fractional distillation is a more complex form of distillation that uses a fractionating column. This column repeatedly condenses and vaporizes the liquid to be distilled. It allows a more effective separation of liquid components and is used in the refining of crude oil. Components that are recovered from fractional distillation of crude oil include kerosene, petroleum gas, benzene, gasoline, gas oil, fuel oil, and residue. Steam distillation can be used with heat sensitive compounds to produce essential oils and herbal distillates for aromatherapy and food processing. Distillation purifies liquids, especially water. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, water desalination plants are used in about 120 countries, with the Middle East using about 70% of worldwide capacity and North Africa using about 6% of worldwide capacity.


Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 40 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Learners should be familiar with these terms: homogeneous, matter, and mixtures.
Course Chemistry
Type of Tutorial Concept Development
Key Vocabulary boiling point, distillation, evaporation