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Many organic compounds tend to decompose at high sustained temperatures. Separation by normal distillation would then not be an option, so water or steam is introduced into the distillation apparatus. By adding water or steam the boiling points of the compounds are depressed, allowing them to evaporate at lower temperatures, preferably below the temperatures at which the deterioration of the material becomes appreciable. If the substances to be distilled are very sensitive to heat, steam distillation can also be combined with vacuum distillation. After distillation the vapors are condensed as usual, usually yielding a two-phase system of water and the organic compounds, allowing for simple separation.
Additional recommended knowledge
When a mixture of two practically immiscible liquids is heated while being agitated to expose the surfaces of both the liquids to the vapor phase, each constituent independently exerts its own vapor pressure as a function of temperature as if the other constituent were not present. Consequently, the vapor pressure of the whole system increases. Boiling begins when the sum of the partial pressure of the two immiscible liquids just exceeds the atmospheric pressure. In this way many organic compounds insoluble in water can be purified at a temperature well below the point at which decomposition occurs. For example, the boiling point of bromobenzene is 156 deg C and the boiling point of water is 100 deg C, but a mixture of the two boils at 95 deg C. Thus bromobenzene can be easily distilled at a temperature 61 deg C below its normal boiling point
Steam distillation is employed in the manufacture of essential oil, for instance, perfumes. In this method, steam is passed through the plant material containing the desired oils. It is also employed in the synthetic procedures of complex organic compounds. Eucalyptus oil and orange oil are obtained by this method in industrial scale.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Steam_distillation". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.