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Fractional Distillation

In this worksheet, students will explore fractional distillation. Plastics, petrol, diesel, tar - the world would be a very different place without them. These are just a few of the chemicals produced from crude oil which needs fractional distillation to separate them.

'Fractional Distillation' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:   Chemistry: Pure and Impure Substances

Curriculum subtopic:   Separating Mixtures

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

Fractional distillation can be used to separate a mixture of compounds with different boiling points such as crude oil or air. 


Air is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and some other gases. The composition of air is shown in the pie chart below.


Pie chart of gases of the air


To separate this mixture the air must be cooled to -200 oC, which turns it into a liquid. It is then warmed up slowly and each of the liquids boil off at a different temperature and can be collected and removed. 


Distillation of liquid air


Fractional distillation can also be used to separate crude oil into the many compounds that it is made up of. This is very important as crude oil contains some very useful compounds such as petrol and diesel. The products of fractional distillation are shown in the diagram below:


Fractional distillation of crude oil


Use this activity to find out more about this method of separating mixtures of liquids.

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