How to Use Fractional Distillation Hardware

What is Short Path Distillation?

Short path distillation (SPD) is a process of extracting individual chemical compounds from a larger material. In this process, technicians are looking to split a material, likely a botanical, into different chemical compounds so that they can keep the useful substances and remove the contaminants. It is called “short path” due to the short distance the chemicals travel through glassware before they fully separate. This process is commonly used for purifying small amounts of a compound, or when working with compounds that become unstable when reaching high temperatures. Examples include organic compounds like solvents and aodic molecules utilized in the life sciences industry for biomedical or biological research and botanicals like cannabinoids or essential oils.


Here is a Quick Diagram of a Typical Short-Path System

How to do an SPD Run

  1. Set up a clean short path distillation system using the following equipment:
    1. Heating/receiving flask – round bottom flasks
    2. Distillation head
    3. Distribution condensers
    4. Short path distillation head 
  2. Place the liquid to be distilled in the heating flask
  3. Pull a Vacuum below 5 Torr
  4. Heat the System: Make sure the large flask no more than 1/2 full on a hot plate at around 180 – 200° Celsius. This will heat up the large beaker
  5. Vary temperature to get a steady flow of distillate through the condenser, but not so much where it is violently boiling through the head
  6. Change collection flask when the main body is flowing through the condenser but avoid cross contaminating the fractions
  7. Change the collection flask when the potency is decreasing and collect the residual tails
  8. Once the run is complete, clean your glassware and set it up for another pass