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Fractional Distillation Essay


This experiment aimed to separate the components of a mixture using Fractional Distillation. A volume of 28.0mL of a mixture including ethanol was heated until the temperature reached 78.0 C. Approximately 1.0mL of distillate was collected between 78.0 – 84.0 C. Percent composition by weight of the 1.0mL sample was determined to be 95% ethanol. By careful and accurate techniques, a high percent composition of ethanol was achieved.


Distillation is the ancient process of separating a liquid into its volatile components by vaporizing a liquid by heating, condensing the vapor by means of a cool condenser, and collecting the condensation thereafter. Distilling is used in many practical ways such as purifying contaminates out of water to obtain clean water for drinking, to produce a variety of alcoholic beverages like vodka or whiskey, refining oils such as the gasoline we put in our cars, to make aromatic perfumes, and in natural food flavorings (Maxfield, 2013.)

There are many different ways of distilling, but this experiment uses fractional distillation as the method for extracting ethanol from a mixture. In fractional distillation a column is inserted between the distillation flask and the distilling head. This column is then packed with a stainless-steel sponge. This allows for the mixture to continuously go through many vaporization-condensation cycles while moving up the column. With each cycle the percent composition of the vapor increases. Finally, pure or close to pure ethanol, in this case, condenses and is collected in a receiving container (Engel, Kriz, Lampman, Pavia, 2011).

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