Fractional distillation is a process of separating a mixture of chemical compounds into its component parts or fraction.
This is different from the well-known method of simple distillation, as in this process the separation of chemical compounds does not separate into its component parts or fraction. Instead in simple distillation, it separates the liquids into one.
When is fractional distillation used?
Fractional distillation is used when the two separating liquids have very similar boiling points. To be more specific, when the boiling points of liquids are separated by less than 70° C.
Fractional distillation is also used when there is a mixture of volatile liquids as opposed to just one volatile component which is where simple distillation would be more effective. In summary, fractional distillation is more effective than simple distillation for the purpose of separating volatiles.
Where is fractional distillation used?
Fractional distillation is used in many industries worldwide but is most popular in the oil refinery industries. Fractional distillation can also be found in the purification industry of substances like alcohol, and chemicals. Desalination and manufacturing of liquefied gasses from air are also industries where fractional distillation has proven to be useful.
Why is fractional distillation effective?
The three main benefits of fractional distillation are its volume, and variety potential for solvent usage as well as its efficiency compared to simple distillation. Fractional distillation is a custom-built equipment that is tailored to the user’s preferences.
This gives the option for the engineers to implement different components that make the product unique like being able to handle any waste streams giving it multiple purposes. Included with the custom build, engineers are able to decide on the amount of volume that fractional distillation equipment can handle or recycle at a time. This can vary anywhere from 1 gallon/hour to 500 gallons/hour depending on the industry needs.
Finally, fractional distillation is more effective than simple distillation as the latest designs, software, and testing are used in order to be as energy efficient as possible.
The main goal of fractional distillation is to be as energy efficient as possible as its usage rate can be quite expendable in industries. This results in the equipment leading to decreasing costs, increase in quality and volume of the final product.
Fractional distillation in the water purification industry
The two main industries that fractional distillation is used in is the water industry for the purification of water and the separation of solvents from unwanted substances. Fractional distillation is a major application in these processes as it helps the operations stay efficient, while effectively separating the compounds.
The desalination industry is one of the biggest industries worldwide as it provides a necessity that all humans need in order to live. Desalination is the purification of water, which involves separating salt from water in order to provide clean and safe drinking water. Fractional distillation plays a huge role in this industry as if not effective, could result in millions of humans becoming ill due to them drinking unsafe water.
Fractional distillation is also able to operate at high volumes allowing the industry to keep up with the demand as the global population rises.
Fractional distillation in the NMP and ethanol industry
Fractional distillation is also used in the separation of solvents from unwanted substances like water. For example, some of the most common solvents are separated from water like ethanol and NMP, which can be found in our everyday products.
Ethanol is found in many industries as it is used in manufacturing to create an effective end product. Ethanol can be found in a large number of end user products, including hand sanitizer, beverages, perfumes/colognes, and medicinal liquids.
Ethanol is not completely pure most of the time as it contains a low percentage of water in its compound. Ethanol and water also have similar boiling points making it difficult for simple distillation to be effective. Fractional distillation can help purify ethanol and remove any excess water from its chemical mixture. This is key for ethanol users as a higher concentrated ethanol can lead to the end products being more effective - translating into higher customer satisfaction.
This is similar to the distillation purposes of NMP as well as a higher concentrated substance can lead to more effective end products. Examples of where NMP can be found is in batteries which if a higher NMP is identified, it could lead to a longer life span, increase in power, and improved durability.
Interested in learning more? Contact the Maratek team of solvent recovery specialists today.