Vacuum Fractional Distillation

3 Benefits of Vacuum Fractional Distillation in Low and Medium Vacuum

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When the general public thinks about distillation, they are thinking moonshine or whiskey. In an industrial context, however, vacuum fractional distillation is a process by which vapor from a heated liquid mixture is condensed as it rises through a vertical column. Vacuum is a key component of this process. There are three key benefits of this method, and this post explains why, providing context in biomedical/biological research applications and in the methods used by oil refineries. 

How Vacuum Fractional Distillation Works 

The aforementioned column, through which the condensed liquid mixture rises, includes a series of theoretical plates which help distill the substance over and over as it passes up the condensing column. The most volatile fraction of the mixture emerges from the top of the column, while less volatile fractions are withdrawn at lower points. 

Oil refineries use this method to efficiently remove naphtha, kerosene, and gas oils from crude oil. For volatile organic compound distillations like those found in oil refineries, a digital vacuum gauge is necessary to provide precise pressure control in the low pressure/low vacuum range. These gauges operate on the principle of Piezoresistive technology.  Examples include: the Model 450 and the Vapor Pressure Controller.

For vacuum distillations in biomedical/biological research applications, the medium vacuum range is often used. Here are some examples of gauges that fit this use case: Bullseye Precision Gauge with BluetoothModel 215V, and the StrataVac Distillation Controller  

3 Distinct Benefits of Vacuum Fractional Distillation: 

Using vacuum is often preferable for the following reasons:

  1. Faster processing time;
  2. Effective distillation while keeping the process under the maximum temperature of the distillation unit’s heater; and
  3. Effective processing of higher boiling point solvents without igniting them or causing thermal breakdown.

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For more details on vacuum distillation systems, review our Application Note here.