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Fractional Distillation: Separate a liquid mixture into its fractions Virtual Lab

Learn how to separate a mixture of liquids into its pure components through fractional distillation. Partner with our lab assistant Dr. One to learn how to use a fractionating column and set up a successful distillation!

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Fractional Distillation: Separate a liquid mixture into its fractions

About this Simulation

How do we separate homogeneous mixtures of liquids with similar boiling points? In this simulation, you will learn how to turn a mix of toluene and cyclohexane into its pure components through fractional distillation. Together with Dr. One, you will overcome the limitations of a simple distillation apparatus by adding a fractionating column.

Go beyond simple distillation

When the components of a homogeneous liquid mixture have similar boiling points, you cannot separate them entirely by simple distillation. You will, therefore, use a secret weapon: a fractionating column! When vapors move up through this column, they go through multiple cycles of evaporation and condensation. With each cycle, the vapors get increasingly rich in one component, which means that you can collect a pure product at the end of the apparatus.

Separate the mixture with fractional distillation

You will follow the mixture on its journey through the fractional distillation apparatus. You can choose to explore and learn about every part: from the distilling flask at the start, the fractionating column and condenser, to the receiving flask at the end.

Use the Lever rule to optimize the process

To visualize the journey of the mixture through the apparatus, you will use boiling point vs. composition diagrams. While these diagrams are powerful on their own, you will learn how to extract additional information from them by using the Lever rule. Are you able to predict the purity and amount of the escaping vapors? And have we chosen the appropriate procedural parameters for a successful distillation?

Learning Objectives

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to:

  • Explain the principles behind and procedure of separating hydrocarbon mixtures by fractional distillation

  • Use the Lever rule to determine appropriate procedural parameters for separating a given mixture

  • Deploy appropriate apparatus to perform a fractional distillation procedure

Techniques in Lab

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to:

  • Distillation
  • Fractional Distillation

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