Difference Between Fractional and Simple Distillation (with Table)

Distillation is a very common word that one comes across in Chemistry.  It is one of the most commonly used physical processes, to separate mixtures.  It is a popular method that helps to separate liquid mixtures, depending on the differences in the volatility of the substance. 

Distillation is basically the particular boiling of components from a liquid mixture and then the condensation of those.  It helps to enhance the concentration of a  specific component. It is also useful to get a pure component from a mixture. The process of distillation does not depend on any kind of chemical reaction. It is purely a physical process. It is an essential process for a lot of industries.

There are various kinds of the Distillation process. Some of the many are- simple, fractional, steam, vacuum and so on. The most commonly used processes are Fractional and Simple. Both of these help to separate mixtures using the same equipment. However, there is a considerable difference between the two differences. 

The difference between Fractional and Simple Distillation is that Fractional Distillation is common when separating mixtures with chemicals whose boiling points are close to each other. On the other hand, Simple Distillation is common when separating mixtures with chemicals whose boiling points are different from each other. 

Comparison Table Between Fractional and Simple Distillation

Parameter of ComparisonFractional DistillationSimple Distillation
ProcessFractional Distillation is used to separate mixtures whose boiling points are close to each other. Simple Distillation is used to separate mixtures whose boiling points have a great difference in them. 
Equipment Fractional Distillation requires complex equipment and a fractioning column. Simple Distillation requires simple equipment. It needs two flasks and a condenser. 
Distillation cycleThe process of Fractional Distillation has to go through at least two cycles. The process of Simple Distillation has to go through one distillation cycle. 
UseThe process of Fractional Distillation does not separate liquid substance from the solid substance. The process of Simple Distillation helps to separate liquid substance from a solid substance. 
Example The process of crude oil refining is done through fractional distillation. The process of purification of Seawater is done through simple distillation. 

What is Fractional Distillation?

Fractional Distillation is a common method used to separate miscible liquids. The boiling points of the liquids are very close to each other. Fractional distillation is a physical process, which involves continuous distillations and condensations so that the substances are separated into different parts. It involves heating the substances at a certain temperature when some parts of the mixture start boiling and vaporizing. Since the different liquids boil at different temperatures, the liquid with a low boiling point boils first and changes to vapour. This process is commonly used for substances where boiling points of mixture are within (25°C).

The process of Fractional Distillation is a bit complex. It requires a proper apparatus and a fractioning column. In this process, various small simple distillation processes are carried out. Some loss does take place in the apparatus. This process can also be helpful in separating liquid substance from a solid substance.

The process of fractional distillation is commonly carried out, in the day to day activities of industries. The most common example of fractional distillation is for refining of the crude oil.

Fractional Distillation 1

What is Simple Distillation?

Simple Distillation is one of the most common techniques used to separate substances. The fact that different substances have different boiling points, is what simple distillation is based on. It involves boiling of mixtures and then condensing them. It is used to increase the concentration of a particular substance. The process uses the difference in boiling points of the substance to convert the substances into a gaseous form. It is a completely physical process, with no chemical reaction. 

The process is suitable to separate liquids whose difference in the boiling points is fifty-degree minimum. When the mixture that needs to be separated is put to heat, the substance that vapours will be rich in the component of the mixture that will boil at a low temperature. The process of Simple Distillation is simple and can be done using just two flasks and one condenser. It can be used to separate the liquid from a solid substance and vice versa.

Simple Distillation is a very common practice since it is simple to perform and does not require any kind of fractioning column. The process can be performed by just a single distillation cycle.  Example of this is the purification of seawater.

Simple Distillation 1

Main Difference Between Fractional and Simple Distillation

  1. The difference in the boiling point of the substances is very less, whereas, on the other hand, Simple Distillation is a process used to separate substances where the difference in the boiling points of the substances is high. 
  2. The process of Fractional Distillation requires at least two distillation cycles whereas the process of Simple Distillation requires one distillation cycle. 
  3. The equipment required for Fractional Distillation is complex, whereas the equipment required for Simple Distillation is simple.
  4. Fractional Distillation requires a fractional column for the process. On the other hand, Simple Distillation requires two flasks and a condenser. 
  5. The process of Fractional Distillation is not suitable when separating liquid substance from a solid substance whereas, on the other hand, the process of Simple Distillation is suitable when separating liquid substance from a solid substance.
  6. Example of Fractional Distillation is separating petroleum products, whereas an example of Simple Distillation is separating water and acetone.

Conclusion

Distillation is a very commonly used process, to separate substances from a mixture. There are various ways to do so. The most common ones being Fractional Distillation and Simple Distillation. 

The difference between the two is the Fractional Distillation is suitable for a mixture whose substances have a boiling point close to each other. On the other hand, Simple Distillation is suitable for a mixture whose boiling points are very different from each other. Fractional Distillation is difficult to perform whereas Simple Distillation is an easy process.

References

  1. https://aocs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1007/BF02667433
  2. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ac50164a050