Distillation is a process of separating the component substances from a liquid mixture by selective vaporization and condensation. Distillation may result in essentially complete separation (nearly pure components), or it may be a partial separation that increases the concentration of selected components of the mixture. In either case the process exploits differences in the volatility of mixture’s components. In industrial chemistry, distillation is a unit operation of practically universal importance, but it is a physical separation process and not a chemical reaction.
Commercially, distillation has many applications. For example:
• In the fossil fuel industry distillation is a major class of operation in obtaining materials from crude oil for fuels and for chemical feedstocks.
• Distillation permits separation of air into its components — notably oxygen, nitrogen, and argon — for industrial use.
• In the field of industrial chemistry, large ranges of crude liquid products of chemical synthesis are distilled to separate them, either from other products, or from impurities, or from unreacted starting materials.
• Distillation of fermented products produces distilled beverages with a high alcohol content, or separates out other fermentation products of commercial value.