Distillation: to separate liquids with different boiling points, or a solid from a liquid when you want to keep the liquid.

Distillation allows you to separate liquids with different boiling points – the liquid with the lowest boiling point will boil off first, leaving behind the liquid with the higher boiling point.

Simple Distillation - this is when you can seperate a solid and a liquid when you need to collect the liquid, or a mixture of two liquids where they have different boiling points.  The one with the lowest boiling point will boil off first and collect in the beaker.

Simple Distillation

1. Bunsen Burner
2. Distilling flask (a round bottom flask)
4. Thermometer
5. Liebig Condenser
6. Cooling water in
7. Cooling water out
8. Receiving flask collecting dripping distillate

Flow diagram to show distillaton

Fractional distillation is a bit more complicated!

Fractional Distillation is used to separate a mixture of lots of liquids where each has their own boiling point.  A fractional column is used but the same principles as simple distillation apply.

Crude oil is separated by fractional distillation. 

Fractional Distillation Diagram
Fractional distillation of crude oil

Crude oil is drilled out from underground.  It is made from plants and animal which died millions of years ago. Crude oil is a toxic, thick black liquid.

You can see from the diagram that butane and propane boil off at 20 degrees Celcius and petrol at 150.  Many useful products come form distilled crude oil including aeroplane fuel, plastics, medicines and even chemicals used to make lipstick!

Petrol Refinery

This is an oil refinery which is where crude oil is separated.

Whiskey Stills

Whiskey and other spirit alcohols are distilled during the manufacturing process.

These are the stills at a whiskey distillery. The fermented grains are put in the stills and the liquid is heated to just below 100 degress Celcius - the alcohol boils off first and goes into the condensor.  The condensors are outside the buildings because it is generally quite cold even in the summer.  The alcohol is actually distilled twice before it is aged in barrels for about 10 years.

Each distillery has a different shape and it is believed that this also helps change the taste of each whiskey.

Whiskey Stills
Cooling Tanks
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All images sourced from wikicommons.org unless otherwise stated