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steam distillation

Steam distillation is a special type of distillation (a separation process) for temperature sensitive materials that tend to decompose at sustained high temperatures. Separation by normal distillation would then not be an option, so water or steam are introduced into the distillation apparatus. By adding water or steam the boiling point of the compounds is depressed, allowing them to evaporate at lower temperatures, preferably below the temperatures at which the deterioration of the material becomes appreciable. If the substances to be distilled are very sensitive to heat, steam distillation can also be combined with vacuum distillation. After destillation the vapors are condensed as usual, usually yielding a two-phase system of water and the organic compounds, allowing for simple separation.

Steam distillation has been evaluated as a technique for the separation of methylmercury from different environmental sample materials.


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