9 Uses of Simple Distillation in Everyday Life and Industries

  Distillation is a process in which a liquid mixture is purified or separated on by the selective evaporation and condensation.

By this process one can obtain the individual components of the liquid mixture.

Distillation is based on the principle that the liquid in the boiling flask and the vapor have different compositions.

Distillation serves the purpose of separating the liquids of a mixture which has different boiling points, separating liquid from non-volatile components of the mixture and to obtain a relatively pure individual component or components of the mixture.

As you might know there are many types of distillation processes. 

Simple distillation is simplest of all those processes, as the name suggests. 

In this post we shall look at the uses of simple distillation. There are numerous applications of simple distillation. We shall first look at the examples of simple distillation first and then discuss them in detail.

Examples of Simple Distillation in everyday life are:

  1. Desalination of seawater
  2. Production of distilled water
  3. Production of water for injections
  4. Production of aromatic water
  5. Preparation of organic solvents
  6. Preparation of spirit of nitrous ether
  7. Preparation of aromatic spirits of ammonia
  8. Separation of volatile substances from non volatile substances
  9. Separation of ethanol and water

Uses of Simple distillation

The most common use of simple distillation is desalination of seawater to produce water suitable for drinking and agriculture.

Desalination Plant
Desalination Plant

It is one of the oldest use of simple distillation and still in use widely in the middle east. 

According to Wikipedia

There are about 21,000 desalination plants around the world that are in operation. The biggest ones are in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The largest desalination plant known as Al-Khair Power and Desalination Plant is located in Saudi Arabia and it has the capacity of 1,401,000 cubic meters per day.

The application of simple distillation for the production of desalination is a very important process as it helps in the supply of drinking water in desert areas of the middle eastern countries. It also helps in agriculture which in turns provides food for the population.

Simple distillation also helps in purification of water. It removes impurities and reduces water borne diseases by purifying water.

This is most useful in those countries that are underdeveloped. Populations of those countries do not have access to clean drinking water. Underdeveloped and developing countries have a lot of polluted water bodies, due to lack of education or infrastructure.

By the application of simple distillation people can access to clean drinking water devoid of health affecting impurities.

Production of distilled water

The process of simple distillation helps in the production of distilled water. 

Distilled water is a type of purified water that has been vaporized and then condensed in another container. If the impurities have a higher boiling point than water they get separated.

Distilled water finds various applications in chemical and biological laboratories.

They are often used in lead-acid batteries as they prevent corrosion. 

Distilled water is also used in steam irons to increase the life of iron by preventing mineral deposits on them.

Distilled water finds it's use in the food industry also. It is used for cooking, making soups, freezing distilled water gives crystal clear ice cubes and distilled water is also extensively used in the baking industry.

Water for injection is produced by using the process simple distillation.

It is water of extra high quality and it has almost no contamination. It is generally made isotonic by addition of substances before use. It is administered using an injection into the vein, muscle or under the skin.

 Aromatic water or Medicated water is a saturated solution of a volatile oil or other volatile substance. 

The examples of aromatic or medicated water includes

Cinnamon Water- It is a clear saturated solution of cinnamon oil in purified water.

Orange Flower Water- It is a nearly colorless, saturated solution of the odoriferous principles of Citrus aurantium L. It finds its use in flavoring and perfume.

Peppermint Water- It is a clear, saturated solution of peppermint oil in purified water.

Strong Rose Water- It is a saturated solution of the odoriferous principles of the flower of Rosae centifolia L.

Simple distillation is used in the preparation of organic solvents. 

Organic solvents are those chemical compounds that have a carbon based molecular structure.

Solvents are those substances in which solutes can be dissolved.

Organic solvents are used as polishes, paint thinner and remover, nail polish remover, perfumes etc.

Simple distillation is used in the process for the preparation of the spirit of nitrous ether.

Spirit of nitrous either is a pale yellow liquid which has a sweetish taste and a pleasant ethereal odor. It is obtained by the distillation of alcohol with nitric acid and sulfuric acid, and consists of ethyl nitrate with a little acetic aldehyde. It is used as diaphoretic, diuretic, antispasmodic etc.

Another use of simple distillation is in the production of aromatic spirits of ammonia.

It is a nearly colorless liquid containing ammonia, ammonium carbonate, alcohol, and aromatic oils, used orally as an antacid and carminative and it is also used as a stimulant in the treatment of faintness by inhalation.

Simple distillation helps in the separation of non volatile substances from the volatile substances.

The mixture made up of volatile and non-volatile components are heated to evaporate the volatile liquid components and vapor is then condensed to a liquid and stored in a receiving flask, as a result the non-volatile components of the mixture gets separated and is present in the boiling flask.

One of the most common uses of simple distillation is the separation of ethanol and water.

Ethanol has lower boiling point than that of water. And this difference is around 25 C. When the process of simple distillation is carried out on ethanol and water. Ethanol evaporates and water remains in the boiling flask. Therefore, two separate components of water and ethanol are obtained in different flasks. This in turn helps in the concentration of alcohol. 

You may also want to read:

Advantages and Disadvantages of Simple Distillation

10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Fractional Distillation

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