Thursday, February 12, 2004

Distillation: Not for the faint of eyes
Another Thursday--which means another three to four hours in the lab over at Rogers. This evening we were distilling a solution of cyclohexane and toluene, first using just a simple distilling technique, and then using this method where you pack a bunch of little glass beads into a vertical tube. Apparently when the solution filters through the beads it makes the distillation process much more effecient. But it takes a hell of a lot longer, especially when you have to measure the temperature of the damn thing for every two milliliter increment.
This is related to our study of how crude oil is refined. All the seperate components--kerosene, gasoline, jet fuel, engine oil, etc.--have different boiling points, vapor pressures, and so forth, so if you have a really tall distilling tower with plates set up to catch the various solutions as they vaporize and condense, you eventually get a tower that has seperated solutions of gas, oil, and so on.
So yeah, you learn a lot in lab. The biggest lesson is, never take the evening one. Dinner is much more important than learning.

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