uses of fractional distillation

Introduction: Uses of Fractional Distillation

The Greek alchemist, probably discovered fractional distillation when he noticed condensate on the lid of container in which some mercury was being heated. This important technique was initially used to separate mixtures of fatty acids as well as esters derived from natural fats at reduced pressures. In early ages, the apparatus used in fractional distillation was not very efficient. Thus, earlier the natural mixtures were first separated chemically prior to distillation.


About Fractional Distillation

Fractional distillation is a physical method of separating mixtures, in which components of the mixtures are separated by heating at different temperatures. Generally, fractional distillation is used for separating crude oils. Fractional distillation uses the boiling points of the chemical substances to heat them at several temperatures so that the compound will evaporate. It is a special type of distillation.

In fractional distillation, the component parts boil at less than 25 0C from each other at a pressure of 1 atm. If the difference between the boiling points of the liquids in the mixture is greater than 25 0C, then simple distillation technique is used. In fractional distillation, we use common laboratory glassware and apparatus including a Bunsen burner, round flask and condenser.

Uses of Fractional Distillation

Fractional distillation is widely used by separating two mixtures having difference in their boiling points. Some important uses of fractional distillation are:

  • It is used in the distillation of crude oil to remove impurities.
  • It is used in petroleum refining industries and chemical industries.
  • It is used in large-scale alcoholic fermentation in order to purify alcoholic beverages like beer and wine.
  • It is also used to purify wines and other alcoholic drinks.
  • It is used for solvent recycling.
  • It is used for extraction of essential oils.
  • It is used in the purification of fragrances in perfume industries.
  • It is also used in Hydrogen isotopes research
  • It is used in Nitrogen production (by liquefied air).



Fractional distillation is the technique implemented by various industries and sectors. As this technique is very useful in separating two different types of liquids based on their boiling points. This technique has no disadvantages. Fractional distillation is the easiest technique, which requires low cost, and thus it is chosen by many industrial sectors.