We believe that metal scrubbers are the best packing material to use in a distillation column. However, people have more problems handling scrubbers than with any other part of their still! More often than not, scrubbers are taken straight out of the packet and pushed directly into the column. This is the easiest way to ensure that they're packed too tightly. Since they have a rough surface, the scrubbers tend to grip the sides of the column. Shoving them into a column is rather like trying to push an unwilling cat through a narrow hole - it tends to resist!
We've found that the best procedure is to pull the scrubber out into a loose cylinder, which should slip easily into the column. Remember, we want a lot of airspace inside the scrubber so vapor can get through easily. If you still have trouble with them, you can cut them into smaller pieces that will slip easily into the column without bunching up. After filling the column with scrubbers, you should be able to blow through it relatively easily. If you feel resistance, you have packed the column too tightly.
Another test for proper packing is the ability to get the scrubbers back out. In a properly packed column, the scrubbers will remain in their place, but can be easily pushed out with a large dowel or a pipe that fits inside of the column. This same dowel or pipe can be used to gently push scrubbers down into the column when packing it.
Another way of getting scrubbers out, especially with smaller diameter columns, is to fasten a fishhook on the end of a long wooden stick. Straighten out the hook, and the barb at the end will catch on the scrubber material, allowing you to pull it out.
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