Azeotropic Distillation

Highly nonideal systems, with components having close boiling points among them, often produce azeo-tropes. Azeotropes can be identified by using an x-y diagram. When an azeotrope is present, the equilibrium curve crosses the line x = y (45° line), as shown in Figure 5.

Azeotropes limit the separation that can be achieved by conventional distillation. Sometimes it is possible to shift the equilibrium by changing the pressure of the system sufficiently to move the azeotrope away from the region where the separation must be made. Other cases, however, require the addition of a new material in order to achieve separation.

In azeotropic distillation, the equilibrium behaviour of the mixture is modified by adding a new material (called the solvent or entrainer). The added entrainer forms a minimum boiling point azeotrope with one or more components and distils overhead. The distillate is generally heterogeneous, that is, it is composed of two immiscible liquids when condensed. Such a heterogeneous nature facilitates the separation of the product from the entrainer.

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