Distillation is a method of separating mixtures based on differences in their volatilities in a boiling liquid mixture. Distillation is a unit operation, or a physical separation process, and not a chemical reaction

Commercially, distillation has a number of uses. It is used to separate crude oil; water is distilled to remove impurities, such as salt from seawater; air is distilled to separate its components—notably oxygen, nitrogen, and argon—for industrial use. Distillation of fermented solutions has been used since ancient times to produce distilled beverages with higher alcohol content. The premises where distillation is carried out, especially distillation of alcohol are known as a distillery. Distillation is favored over other separation techniques such as crystallization or membranes when; 1. The relative volatility is greater than 1.2, 2. Products are thermally stable, 3. Large rates are desired, 4. No corrosion, precipitation or explosion issues are present.

In distillation unit (column) mixtures can be separated with distillation if the components of the mixture have different boiling points. The substance in the mixture with the lowest boiling point vaporizes first, travels through the tubing and then is condensed in the test tube that sits in the cool water. The material that remains in the distilling flask is known as the residue. The substance that travels through the tubing and is later condensed in the test tube is known as the distillate or condensate.

The apparatus for distillation can be more sophisticated than the one shown here.

A classic example would be an ethanol-water mixture: the ethanol will be recovered as distillate, or overhead product, while the water will be recovered as bottoms product.

1) Pressure and Temperature: They can determine how good or how easy the separation can be, since a different T /or P can give you different equilibrium conditions, probably determining how theoretical stages are needed, or moving towards/away from an azeotropic point. 2) Feed condition: It will alter the vapor/liquid content or flow inside the unit, and it can influence the reboiler duty also: if you use a saturated or subcooled liquid as a feed, the reboiler will need more heat to evaporate, while this heat is "saved" if the feed has some vapor phase or is saturated vapor. 3) Reflux ratio: It will determine how pure your overhead product will be, by means of sacrifying distillate flow rate. If you use more reflux, the separation will be better, but producing less distillate since you are recirculating it to the column. If you use less reflux, you will produce more reflux, but most probably with a lower purity in the light component. 4) Reboiler duty: It will determine how much heavy vapor phase is present in the column, thus it will determine also how much heavy component is evaporated, affecting the heavy composition in the bottoms product. The reboiler, duty must be balanced to generate enough vapor avoiding the contamination of the overhead product with heavy component.

1. Batch Distillation 2. Continuous Distillation Continuous columns can be further classified according to: The nature of the feed that they are processing, • Binary column - feed contains only two components • Multi-component column - feed contains more than two components The number of product streams they have • Multi-product column - column has more than two product streams where the extra feed exits when it is used to help with the separation, • Extractive distillation - where the extra feed appears in the bottom product stream. • Azeotropic distillation - where the extra feed appears at the top product stream. The type of column internals Tray column - where trays of various designs are used to hold up the liquid to provide better contact between vapour and liquid, hence better separation Packed column - where instead of trays, 'packings' are used to enhance contact between vapour and liquid.

Batch Distillation
Batch distillation refers to the use of distillation in batches, meaning that a mixture is distilled to separate it into its component fractions before the distillation still is again charged with more mixture and the process is repeated. Batch distillation has always been an important part of the production of seasonal, or low capacity and high-purity chemicals. It is a very frequent separation process in the pharmaceutical industry and in wastewater treatment units.

Bach Distillation column

Continuous Distillation
Continuous distillation is an ongoing distillation in which a liquid mixture is continuously (without interruption) fed into the process and separated fractions are removed continuously as output streams as time passes during the operation. Continuous distillation produces at least two output fractions, including at least one volatile distillate fraction, which has boiled and been separately captured as a vapor condensed to a liquid. There is always a bottoms (or residue) fraction, which is the least volatile residue that has not been separately captured as a condensed vapor. Continuous distillation differs from batch distillation in the respect that concentrations should not change over time. Continuous distillation can be run at a steady state for an arbitrary amount of time. Continuous distillation requires building and configuring dedicated equipment. The resulting high investment cost restricts its use to the large scale.

Distillation columns are made up of several components, each of which is used either to transfer heat energy or enhance material transfer. A typical distillation contains several major components: • a vertical shell where the separation of liquid components is carried out • column internals such as trays/plates and/or packings which are used to enhance component separations • a reboiler to provide the necessary vaporization for the distillation process • a condenser to cool and condense the vapour leaving the top of the column • a reflux drum to hold the condensed vapour from the top of the column so that liquid (reflux) can be recycled back to the column The vertical shell houses the column internals and together with the condenser and reboiler, constitutes a distillation column. A schematic of a typical distillation unit with a single feed and two product streams is shown below:

The liquid mixture that is to be processed is known as the feed and this is introduced usually somewhere near the middle of the column to a tray known as the feed tray. The feed tray divides the column into a top (enriching or rectification) section and a bottom (stripping) section. The feed flows down the column where it is collected at the bottom in the reboiler.

Heat is supplied to the reboiler to generate vapour. The source of heat input can be any suitable fluid, although in most chemical plants this is normally steam. In refineries, the heating source may be the output streams of other columns. The vapour raised in the reboiler is re-introduced into the unit at the bottom of the column. The liquid removed from the reboiler is known as the bottoms product or simply, bottoms.

The vapour moves up the column, and as it exits the top of the unit, it is cooled by a condenser. The condensed liquid is stored in a holding vessel known as the reflux drum. Some of this liquid is recycled back to the top of the column and this is called the reflux. The condensed liquid that is removed from the system is known as the distillate or top product.

Thus, there are internal flows of vapour and liquid within the column as well as external flows of feeds and product streams, into and out of the column.

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