What does Distillation stand for?

Originating from the Latin word destillatio, distillation is the process and result of distillation. This verb refers to filtering or causing a liquid to drip, or to achieve the separation of one component from others through the application of heat.

For example: “The distillation of whiskey began to develop at the end of the fifteenth century”, “In the process of obtaining fuel, the distillation of oil is very important”, “The Chemistry teacher taught us what distillation consists of”.

The notion of distillation is usually used to name the procedure that allows the separation of substances that form a mixture, through their condensation or vaporization. Thanks to the different condensation and boiling points of substances, distillation makes it possible to distinguish between liquefied gases, solids that were dissolved, and liquids. See Abbreviation Finder for acronyms related to Distillation.

According to how the process is developed, it is possible to speak of different types of distillation:

Simple distillation

It is used when there is only one volatile substance in the mixture of liquid products, or when there is more than one but the difference in the boiling point of the liquid with the highest volatility with that of the rest equals or exceeds 80 °C. This procedure results in a single product, since: is the number of components that were in the original mixture; one of the components was considerably more volatile than the rest. To perform simple distillation, you must have a vacuum adapter and a vacuum system.

Within this type of distillation, we can distinguish between the following two classes:

* at atmospheric pressure: it is carried out at ambient pressure . It is mainly used in cases in which the product’s boiling temperature is lower than that of its chemical decomposition;

* at reduced pressure: it is achieved by reducing the pressure with the aim of lowering the boiling point of the component that we wish to subject to distillation. It is usually used when the boiling point of the product is higher than the temperature of its chemical decomposition.

Fractional distillation

It is used when the boiling points of the volatile substances of the liquid mixture have a difference of less than 80 °C. When the mixture is heated, the steam acquires more richness in the element with the highest volatility, a property that is used to divide the liquid compounds. This type of distillation is mainly characterized by requiring a fractionation column. It can be carried out at reduced or atmospheric pressure, as is the case with simple distillation.

Steam distillation

It is used to purify or isolate compounds whose boiling point is very high, through the use of temperatures that do not exceed 100 °C. This type of distillation is very convenient for dealing with substances that have a boiling point well above 100 °C and never decompose beyond that temperature.

Thanks to steam distillation it is possible to separate substances that are not soluble in H2O, as well as those with a slight volatility from other non-volatile substances. An excess of water must be added to the mixture in which the product to be separated is found. Two flasks (glass or glass vessels whose shape is usually spherical and end in a straight and narrow cylinder) are used for this procedure: the distillation flask, in which the compounds soluble in hot water and/or volatile remain; and the collector, which recovers the insolubles in water and the volatiles. To isolate the organic compounds from the collection flask, an extraction is carried out.