GCSE Chemistry: Distillation

5th April 2017

GCSE Syllabus Revision - Chemistry

Distillation - the key facts!


Across all examination boards, including WJEC, AQA, Edexcel and OCR, you will very likely be tested on your understanding of the process of distillation in your GCSE Chemistry examination. As such, it is important that we understand all the key information associated with this subject. To give you a helping hand, we have compiled these revision notes to accompany our song which is based on distillation - you can find the song here. Take a look at our notes, listen to our song and finally take the quiz to see how much you’ve understood - it’s a recipe for success.


Distillation is a separation process.  Simple distillation separates a liquid from a solution leaving behind any solid particles. This works, for example, with a salt water mixture. By evaporating the liquid water we can separate the solid salt particles from the solution.

The water is evaporated and then cooled and condensed. The salt does not evaporate because it is a solid and thus stays behind. When the water cools and condenses you are left with pure water.


However, other types of distillation can involve separating a liquid from a liquid. This is done by utilising the fact that different liquids have different boiling points. As liquids get hotter they begin to separate due to the fact that they boil at different temperatures. For example, ethanol and water have different boiling points and can therefore be separated through this heating process. This process is called fractional distillation because different liquids will separate at different boiling points (fractions).


These processes involve heat in order to create the evaporating necessary to provoke separation/distillation. However, there are also other techniques that can be used to separate dyes and inks for example, and this is called chromatography.


Another important process to understand is filtration. This is where you can use a filter to extract an insoluble (it doesn’t dissolve) substance from a solution. Now that you know the basics listen to our song on distillation which is sure to get the key facts stuck in your head. Just remember, distillation is all about separating and you can’t go far wrong.

For more help with chemistry topics take a look at our songs on atoms and collision theory. These will help you on your way to achieving the best marks possible!


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