Equipment required

You need a boiler (with heater element control), a packed fractionating column, and two condensers: a reflux condenser for the top of the column, and a small Liebig condenser for collecting product. You also need a way of hooking them all together and managing the vapor flow. This is done by using a vapor control head.

You can make the head by placing a 2.5 cm (1") diameter tee between the top of the column and the reflux condenser. This is a standard plumbing part, and should be available at any hardware store. In the picture, the ends of the tee are joined to flanges, but you could easily use 5x2.5cm (2"x1") reducing couplings or end caps with holes for the tee drilled in them. (Use your imagination!)

NOTE: the vapor control head must not be significantly cooled by its proximity to the top reflux condenser, for if any of vapor condenses inside it then the separation principle will be compromised. For this reason, the best types of condenser to use are often a simple reflux coil or a cold finger as the enclosing shroud or sleeve, which is usually soldered or otherwise fastened to the separator, is not actively cooled. A poor choice would be a gloved cold finger, as the active cooling of the outer sleeve could easily extend to the separator.

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