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Experiment #5

Fractional Distillation
Fractional Distillation:
Separation of a Cyclohexane (b.p. = 80.74°C) and Toluene (b.p.
= 110.6°C) mixture by two Fractional distillation

Purification technique for liquids

Cyclohexane Toluene

Boiling a liquid  directing the vapor  collecting the condensate

to a cooled chamber

How this process serve as a purification technique?

1. “non-volatile” impurities
If the original liquid contained non-volatile impurities, they do not
evaporate: they are left behind as residue in the distillation flask.

2. “volatile” impurities
Simple distillation; a boiling point difference of > ~75oC
Fractional Distillation: a boiling point difference < ~75oC
Fractional Distillation:
Boiling a liquid  directing the vapor to a fractionating column  directing the
vapor to a cooled chamber  collecting the condensate
Fractionating column:
A. Mixture of two components with similar B.P. is boiled
Vapor will be slightly richer in the substance with the lower B.P.

B. If this vapor mixture is allowed to condense:

More of the higher boiling liquid will condense,
The vapor will be even richer with the lower B.P.

C. If this condensate were to be evaporated again, followed by

condensation: the vapor would be further concentrated in the
lower boiling component.

Thus, multiple evaporations and condensations could theoretically result in

so much enrichment(pure) of the lower boiling component.
The fractionating column

- Allows these multiple evaporations and condensations

- Effective heat exchange: ascending vapor and descending liquid
Condensation of higher boiling liquid releases heat  leads to
vaporization of lower boiling liquid on the surface of the packing
* Vapor moves up (lower B.P. component),
* Liquid moves down (higher B.P. component)

- Each successive condensation-vaporization cycle is called a “theoretical

Effective separation/purification requires many theoretical plates
What to perform in the lab:

Fractional distillation:
- Pack distilling column with copper sponge: do not pack too tightly!
- Do not forget to add boiling chip!
- Pay special attention to the position of the thermometer
- Cool the receiving vial in an ice-bath

Ask your TA to check your apparatus before you start heating!

- Look for the ring of condensation on the column: it slowly rises

up the column
- Adjust rate of distillation: 1 mL drops per 1.5-2 minutes
Not faster!
Position of Thermometer
Fractional Distillation:
Experiment Cont…
- Record temperature v. number of mL of distillate during entire
Take more frequent readings when temperature starts to rise
- After cyclohexane has distilled, the temperature may drop!
- Increase the heat input at this point to allow toluene to start distilling
Do not allow distillation flask to run dry!

- Stop when a second constant temperature is reached

Distillation Curves
Pre-lab Questions:

Q.1. Why is it extremely dangerous to attempt to carry out a distillation in a

completely closed apparatus (one with no vent to the atmosphere)?

Q.2. Why is better separation of two liquids achieved by slow rather than
fast distillation?

Q.3. Explain why a packed fractionating column is more efficient than an un

packed one.
Post-Lab Questions:

Q.1. Let’s say you are instructed to collect your distillate (condensate)
in four separate containers, ~1 mL in each, during the fractional
distillation of 4 mL of a (1:1) cyclohexane-toluene mixture, and then
obtain IR spectra for each fraction. How would the IR spectrum of the
first 1 mL fraction look different from that of the last 1 mL fraction?

Q.2. You are given a liquid sample that has a non-volatile impurities
dissolved in it and you are assigned a task to determine a suitable
method for its purification. How you would proceed, clearly explaining
your rationale?