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How To Set Up Distillation Apparatus

Jan 20,2022 by Edulab

Distillation is the process used to separate different components in a mixture. It is commonly used in chemistry labs, food science, and a range of other industries. Distillation is also a popular lesson taught in school laboratories and is part of some major curriculums. It is a popular Bunsen burner experiment which many teachers choose to demonstrate to their students. With distillation, temperature is used to separate materials in a mixture, by separating them depending on their different boiling points. This process is used to purify alcohol, refine crude oil, and make liquified gases from air.

There are various types of distillation, including simple, steam, and fractional distillation. No matter the type of distillation you are attempting in your lab, it is essential you have the right equipment and know how to set up the experiment properly. At first glance, setting up this kind of experiment can look like a bit of puzzle, with so many bits of glassware and other apparatus to put together. Today, we are explaining what you need and how to set up distillation apparatus.

Equipment For Distillation Experiments

Before you get started with a distillation experiment, you need to make sure you have all the right equipment to hand. Most of the items needed for distillation are commonly found in a laboratory. You can also purchase complete sets of distillation apparatus so you know you have everything you need. The equipment required for distillation is:

  • Round bottom boiling flask
  • Still head
  • Liebig condenser
  • Receiver adaptor
  • Separating funnel with stopper
  • Glass beaker
  • Metal stands
  • Bunsen burner
  • Tripods
  • Retort stand and clamps
  • Thermometer (optional)

How To Set Up Distillation Apparatus

Here is how to assemble your distillation apparatus for the experiment:

  1. Place your Bunsen burner on a stable surface and connect to the gas tap. Position a metal tripod stand over the Bunsen burner with a gauze to radiate the heat.
  2. Use the retort stand and clamps to fix the round bottom boiling flask over the Bunsen burner. This is where the liquid you are going to distil will be, as it needs to be heated using the Bunsen.
  3. The Liebig condenser, or water condenser, needs to be connected to the round bottom boiling flask using the still head. This still head sits above the flask and works to divide the vapour to two different streams.
  4. At the other end of the Liebig condenser should be the receiver adaptor. This should lead into a glass beaker positioned on a second metal stand, and this will be where the distilled liquid will be collected.
  5. On top of the still head you need to fix the separating funnel with stopper. The glass funnel works to control the release of the solution, which is why a stopper is essential.
  6. If you want to use a thermometer to measure the exact temperature of the liquid, this can also be included in the set up.

The exact configuration of the distillation apparatus will vary between labs and the type of experiment you are conducting. These instructions provide a general overview of how this equipment is set up for a simple distillation experiment.

Top Tips For Using Distillation Apparatus

Distillation apparatus can be tricky equipment to master, but once you know the ins and outs of the process it is fairly straightforward. To help you get started, we are sharing some of our top tips for using distillation apparatus.

  • The majority of the apparatus is made from glass and therefore subject to breakages. Make sure everything is properly secured and stabilised during use by attaching to the retort stand. Any glassware that is being subjected to heat, such as the round bottom flask and the condenser, should be thoroughly checked for cracks before use.
  • The Liebig condenser should be connected to a cold running water source during use. This provides the cooling necessary for vapour to distil. It is best to connect the input hose from the tap to the end of the condenser, which is furthest from the heat source, as this will prevent thermal shock in the glassware.
  • It is recommended to use a round bottom flask for distillation instead of a flat-bottomed flask as they provide smoother boiling. This flask should never be over half filled as it can lead to foaming and bubbles reaching the neck of the flask.
  • Care must be taken during heating as the liquid might be flammable or hazardous. Never put the Bunsen burner flame directly onto the flask and use a mantle or gauze to spread the heat below the flask.