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distillation column


Concept: Two or more liquid components have different boiling points at a given pressure. When the mixture is heated up, the more volatile components increase their concentration in the vapor, and lose their concentration in the remaining liquid. If the two phases are separated, one ends up with two batches where the concentration spread is greater than in the original batch. Either batch, or both may be re-subjected to the same process, thereby further increasing the concentration spread. Naturally, the vapor phase will have to be condensed first. If repeated sufficient times, one achieves any desired degree of separation.

If the mixed components enjoy a big gap between their boiling points (at some pressure), then a single phase will suffice. Especially so when one wishes to get rid of the more volatile component, and preserve the less volatile one. In that case one heats the mixture until the volatile component boils away, leaving the desired component in a pure form.

A more sophisticated setup is required when the mixed components are plentiful, and their boiling points are close to each other. Such mixture require a distillation column.

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