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EXPERIMENT 3 Steam Distillation Introduction Plants have characteristic aromas because of volatile oils contained in every part of the

plant. These oils are often concentrated in certain parts of the plant such as the seeds, bark, or flowers. These oils give a plant its particular essence thus the term essential oil. The essential oils of various plants have been used for centuries as flavorings, fragrances, and medicines. Some essential oils, such as limonene, are common to many different plants while others, such as eugenol, are more specific to a particular species of plant. In the case of clove and cinnamon the flavor is primarily due to one compound (eugenol and cinnamonaldehyde respectively) although the full flavor is due to a mixture of several compounds. The isolation of essential oils is sometimes accomplished by steam distillation. In this technique, compounds that are less volatile than water are co-distilled with water. This allows for distillation at temperatures lower than necessary to distill the oil by itself. High temperatures will often cause an organic compound to decompose. In this experiment you will steam distill the essential oils from citronella grass, citrus rind or other suitable plant material.




To assemble and use a simple distillation setup in the separation of volatile substances from non-volatile materials. To isolate essential oils from plant sample.


Procedure A. Steam Distillation

NOTE: Organic solvents are generally flammable and their vapors are toxic. Avoid open flames and do not inhale vapors.


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Weigh out about 200 grams of fresh finely cut citronella grass, citrus rind or other suitable plant material. Mix the sample with distilled water in the sample flask. Add enough water such that the flask is about 2/3 full. Assemble the rest of the set-up. Check all connections for tightness. Show your set-up to your instructor for inspection. Heat the sample flask. Collect about 200 mL of distillate into a 250-mL separatory funnel. Record all observations.

B. Separation of the Essential Oil from the Steam Distillate 1. If a distinct oil layer separates from the aqueous layer of the steam distillate, drain the aqueous layer slowly out of the separatory funnel. If the oil layer is not distinct or if some oil droplets are dispersed in the distillate, salting out may be necessary. 2. Place a spatula of the sodium chloride into the separatory funnel and gently shake or swirl the contents. Let it stand to allow the oil layer to separate then proceed with the drawing out of the aqueous layer. 3. Transfer the remaining oily layer into a previously weighed clean vial using a dry dropper. 4. Determine the weight of the oil. 5. Record all observations. 6. Label the vial properly, indicating the source, laboratory section, group number and date. 7. Submit to your Lab Instructor. III. QUESTIONS: 1. A mixture of immiscible liquids (both water-insoluble) is subjected to steam distillation. At 90C, the vapor pressure of pure water is 526 mm Hg. If the vapor pressure of Compound A is 127 mm Hg and that of B is 246 mm Hg at 90C, a. What is the total vapor pressure of the mixture at 90? b. Would this mixture boil at a temperature above or below 90? c. What would be the effect on the vapor pressure and boiling temperature by doubling the amount of water used?

2. Research on the essential oil you have isolated from your source. Draw its structure. Based on literature, what is its boiling point/vapor pressure? What are the uses of this oil?