Simple Small-Scale Distiller

Friday, July 10, 2009

I had always wanted a small distiller that I could use to purify some of the substances that I have been collecting, but it was just hours ago that I came up with a simple working design. The distiller is pictured below. As you can see, it is simply a small plastic tube punched through a large plastic tube (poke a snug hole through the large cap), with a glass tube connected to the large plastic tube by a bent needle. Here’s what each part does.

simple small-scale distiller

simple small-scale distiller

The small tube is what is known as a cold finger, or a rudimentary condenser. During operation, it would be filled with something cold, such as dry ice in acetone. I didn’t have dry ice or acetone, so I used wet ice in ethanol. The ice provided the low temperature necessary to condense the vapor, and the ethanol helped produce a uniformly cold surface.

The large tube collects the distillate. The cold finger goes directly into this tube. There is a small port roughly halfway down the side, which connects the collection tube to the sample tube via a bent needle.

The glass tube holds the sample to be analyzed, and it is glass because it is the heated portion of the apparatus. As the sample is heated, its vapor travels up the needle bridge. When the vapor hits the cold finger, it condenses around it and finally drips to the bottom of the collection tube.

As a smoke test, I distilled a bit of 70% ethanol that I bought from the neighborhood drug store (I used the same solution in the cold finger). I collected a substantially more concentrated ethanol solution, so the device works. If you try this, do be careful with flammable substances around fire, make sure you use a boiling chip or stick to avoid bumping, and close the collection tube slightly such that excessive pressure could escape.

One Comment

  1. Boris says: