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5.5B: Uses of Steam Distillation

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  • The most common use of steam distillation is the extraction of natural products from plant materials. This is the main industrial method for obtaining plant essential oils, used in fragrances and personal hygiene products. As so many products can be isolated in this way, this technique is regularly performed in teaching labs. An extraction and GC analysis of the essential oil in bay leaves is shown in Figure 5.57.

     A: Bay leaves. B: Bay leaves in boiling water in distilling flask. C: G C spectrum of bay leaf distillate.
    Figure 5.57: Steam distillation of bay leaves. The main peaks in the GC spectrum of the essential oil are eucalyptol (\(5.69 \: \text{min}\), \(14\%\)), umbellulone (\(6.70 \: \text{min}\), \(54\%\)), and 4-terpineol (\(6.74 \: \text{min}\), \(19\%\)).


    • Lisa Nichols (Butte Community College). Organic Chemistry Laboratory Techniques is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Complete text is available online.

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