10 Differences Between simple distillation and fractional distillation

Difference Between Simple Distillation and Fractional Distillation

Welcome to this comprehensive article where we’ll explore the differences between simple distillation and fractional distillation. Distillation is a widely used technique in chemistry to separate and purify liquids based on their boiling points. Understanding the distinctions between these two methods is essential for anyone interested in the principles and applications of distillation.

What is Simple Distillation?

Simple distillation is a basic method used for separating substances with significantly different boiling points. It relies on the principle that when a mixture is heated, the component with the lower boiling point vaporizes first, leaving behind the component with the higher boiling point.

Examples of Simple Distillation

Simple distillation is commonly used for separating a solvent from a non-volatile solute, such as separating water from saltwater or ethanol from a fermentation mixture. It is also employed in the purification of volatile liquids like distilling alcohol.

What is Fractional Distillation?

Fractional distillation is an advanced form of distillation used to separate a mixture of liquids with closer boiling points. It involves the use of a fractionating column, which provides multiple condensation and re-vaporization cycles, allowing for more precise separation.

Examples of Fractional Distillation

Fractional distillation is used for obtaining various petroleum products like gasoline, diesel, and kerosene by separating crude oil components based on their boiling points. It is also applied in the production of alcoholic beverages, essential oils, and perfumes.

Differences Table

Difference Area Simple Distillation Fractional Distillation
Application Simple distillation is suitable for separating liquids with a large boiling point difference. Fractional distillation is used for separating liquids with close boiling points.
Efficiency Simple distillation is less efficient due to the absence of a fractionating column. Fractional distillation is more efficient as it allows for better separation of components.
Purity Simple distillation provides a lower level of purity as it cannot achieve complete separation. Fractional distillation provides higher purity as it allows for more accurate separation.
Simple distillation is a quicker process as it involves fewer steps. Fractional distillation is a relatively longer process due to the inclusion of a fractionating column.
Equipment Simple distillation requires basic apparatus like a distillation flask and condenser. Fractional distillation necessitates additional equipment like a fractionating column.
Vapor Composition The vapor produced in simple distillation has a constant composition throughout the process. The vapor composition changes as it ascends the fractionating column in fractional distillation.
Simple distillation is used in everyday applications like water purification and alcohol distillation. Fractional distillation has industrial applications in the petroleum and chemical industries.
Simple distillation is less flexible and cannot separate liquids with close boiling points effectively. Fractional distillation offers greater flexibility and can handle mixtures with similar boiling points.
Simple distillation provides a less accurate separation of components. Fractional distillation offers a more precise separation of components.
Simple distillation is a simpler process with fewer variables to control. Fractional distillation is a more complex process requiring careful control of multiple factors.


In summary, simple distillation and fractional distillation are two techniques used to separate liquids based on their boiling points. The key differences lie in their efficiency, purity, accuracy, flexibility, and the equipment required. Simple distillation is suitable for separating liquids with significantly different boiling points in simpler applications, while fractional distillation is employed when precise separations of liquids with close boiling points are required in more complex industrial processes.

People Also Ask:

Q: Can simple distillation be used to separate ethanol from water?
A: Yes, simple distillation is commonly used to separate ethanol from water in the production of alcoholic beverages or bioethanol.

Q: Can fractional distillation be used to separate air components?
A: Yes, fractional distillation is utilized in the separation of air components to obtain gases like oxygen, nitrogen, and argon on an industrial scale.

Q: Is fractional distillation more expensive than simple distillation?
A: Fractional distillation usually requires additional equipment and more precise control, making it a more expensive process compared to simple distillation.

Q: Can fractional distillation achieve complete separation?
A: Fractional distillation can achieve a higher level of separation than simple distillation but may not achieve complete separation for all mixtures.

Q: In which industries is simple distillation commonly used?
A: Simple distillation finds common applications in industries such as water purification, pharmaceuticals, and the production of distilled beverages.

Leave a Comment

content of this page is protected

Scroll to Top