fractional distillation

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The separation of a mixture of liquids by distillation. Effective separation can be achieved by using a long vertical column (fractionating column) attached to the distillation vessel and filled with glass beads. Vapour from the liquid rises up the column until it condenses and runs back into the vessel. The rising vapour in the column flows over the descending liquid, and eventually a steady state is reached in which there is a decreasing temperature gradient up the column. The vapour in the column has more volatile components towards the top and less volatile components at the bottom. Various fractions of the mixture can be drawn off at points on the column. Industrially, fractional distillation is performed in large towers containing many perforated trays. It is used extensively in petroleum refining.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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