Tag: Distillation

Pique the Geek 20100411: Distillation (with Poll!)

Distillation is a general term for several different processes, all of them involving elevated temperature relative to the materials to be separated boiling points.  It is generally a separation process, but in some cases actually involved chemical reactions to create new materials during the process.

Distillation as we generally think of it is a method used to separate two or more liquids, but it is much more general than that.  It also is a term that is used, by extension, to take a large amount of information and extract the most pertinent parts of it into a concentrated form.  Indeed, distillation is often used to concentrate a minor component of a mixture to pure (or at least more concentrated) material.

Pique the Geek 20091108. Distillation, not Just for Beverages

Distillation is a technique of “squeezing” out the essence of a given material (or series of thoughts to one or a few abstractions) into a concentrated product.  The term is from the Latin, distillo, from the combining term de, meaning “down” and the noun stilla, a drop.  Thus, distilled water is literally a drop of water coming down something.  Taken to the extreme, distilled water literally means “a coming down drop of water that is water”.  That does not fit with the modern usage, but is illustrative.

Aristotle, with all of his faults, noted that seawater, boilt under cool sponges, would yield fresh water when the sponges were pressed.  Distillation was known in the ancient world, but not much used except for preparing “medical” remedies, most of them toxic, in a manner that I will describe to you later, in a more modern form.

Actually, the earth is a huge still, with the water cycle reproducing exactly, but on a massive scale, what goes on in an industrial or laboratory still.  Heating, evaporation, segregation of components, and condensation are all essential parts of distillation, and our planet does it well.  Without that process, the planet would not be recognizable.