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Barring a few exceptions, almost every element or compound is found naturally in an impure state such as a mixture of two or more substances. Many times the need to separate it into its individual components arises. Separation applications in the field of chemical engineering are very important. A good example is that of crude oil. Crude oil is a mixture of various hydrocarbons and is valuable in this natural form. Demand is greater, however, for the purified various hydrocarbons such as natural gases, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, lubricating oils, asphalt, etc.
Separation processes can essentially be termed as mass transfer processes. The classification can be based on the means of separation, mechanical or chemical. The choice of separation depends on the pros and cons of each. Mechanical separations are usually favored if possible due to the lower cost of the operations as compared to chemical separations. Systems that can not be separated by purely mechanical means (e.g. crude oil), chemical separation is the remaining solution. The mixture at hand could exist as a combination of any two or more states: solid-solid, solid-liquid, solid-gas, liquid-liquid, liquid-gas, gas-gas, solid-liquid-gas mixture, etc.
Depending on the raw mixture, various processes can be employed to separate the mixtures. Many times two or more of these processes have to be used in combination to obtain the desired separation. In addition to chemical processes, mechanical processes can also be applied where possible. In the example of crude oil, one upstream distillation operation will feed its two or more product streams into multiple downstream distillation operations to further separate the crude, and so on until final products are purified.
Various types of separation processes
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Separation_process". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.