Skip to main content
How To Set Up Distillation Apparatus

How To Set Up Distillation Apparatus

Distillation is a widely used method for separating different components in a mixture and is commonly applied in chemistry labs, food science, and various other industries. It is also an important part of several school curriculums, with many teachers using it as a popular Bunsen burner experiment to demonstrate to their students. By using temperature to separate materials based on their different boiling points, distillation is used to purify alcohol, refine crude oil, and produce liquefied gases from air.

There are different types of distillation techniques, including simple, steam, and fractional distillation, each with its unique process and application. Regardless of the type of distillation being attempted in your lab, it is crucial to have the appropriate equipment and set up the experiment correctly. Initially, the process of setting up this experiment may seem like a puzzle, given the various glassware and apparatus required.

In this quick guide, we look at:

  1. Equipment for Distillation Experiments
  2. How To Set Up Distillation Apparatus
  3. Top Tips for Using Distillation Apparatus

Equipment for Distillation Experiments

To prepare for a distillation experiment, it’s essential to ensure that you have all the necessary equipment on hand. The majority of the equipment required for distillation is typically found in laboratories, and complete sets of distillation apparatus can also be purchased to ensure that you have all the necessary components. The following is a list of equipment required for distillation:

  • 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’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up a simple distillation apparatus for an educational laboratory:

  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.

Remember to follow any specific instructions provided by your educational institution or laboratory manual, and always practice proper laboratory safety procedures.

Top Tips For Using Distillation Apparatus

Mastering the use of distillation apparatus can be challenging, but once you are familiar with the process, it becomes relatively straightforward. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

  1. Because most of the apparatus is made of glass and can easily break, ensure that everything is properly secured and attached to the retort stand during use. Additionally, check any glassware that will be exposed to heat (such as the round bottom flask and condenser) for cracks before using.
  2. Connect the Liebig condenser to a source of running cold water during operation to provide the necessary cooling for distillation. It is recommended to connect the input hose from the tap to the end of the condenser that is furthest from the heat source to prevent thermal shock in the glassware.
  3. It is best to use a round bottom flask for distillation, as it provides smoother boiling compared to a flat-bottomed flask. Never fill the flask with more than half the volume to prevent foaming and bubbles from reaching the neck of the flask.
  4. Be cautious while heating the liquid as it may be flammable or hazardous. Never expose the Bunsen burner flame directly to the flask and use a mantle or gauze to spread heat beneath the flask.