Topics to be covered



Once an organic compound is extracted from a natural source or synthesised in the laboratory, it is essential to purify it.

The common techniques used for purification are as follows :
(i) Sublimation
(ii) Crystallisation
(iii) Distillation
(iv) Differential extraction and
(v) Chromatography

The purity of a compound is ascertained by determining its melting or boiling point. Most of the pure compounds have sharp melting points and boiling points.


On heating, some solid substances change from solid to vapour state without passing through liquid state. The purification technique based on the above principle is known as sublimation and is used to separate sublimable compounds from nonsublimable impurities.


• It is based on the difference in the solubilities of the compound and the impurities in a suitable solvent.

• The impure compound is dissolved in a solvent in which it is sparingly soluble at room temperature but appreciably soluble at higher temperature.

• The solution is concentrated to get a nearly saturated solution. On cooling the solution, pure compound crystallises out and is removed by filtration.

• The filtrate (mother liquor) contains impurities and small quantity of the compound. If the compound is highly soluble in one solvent and very little soluble in another solvent, crystallisation can be satisfactorily carried out in a mixture of these solvents.

• Impurities, which impart colour to the solution are removed by adsorbing over activated charcoal. Repeated crystallisation becomes necessary for the purification of compounds containing impurities of comparable solubilities.


• This important method is used to separate (i) volatile liquids from non volatile impurities and (ii) the liquids having sufficient difference in their boiling points.

• The vapours are cooled and the liquids so formed are collected separately.

• Chloroform (b.p 334 K) and aniline (b.p. 457 K) are easily separated by the technique of distillation.

• The liquid mixture is taken in a round bottom flask and heated carefully.

• On boiling, the vapours of lower boiling component are formed first. The vapours are condensed by using a condenser and the liquid is collected in a receiver.

`color{red}("Fractional Distillation:")`

• If the difference in boiling points of two liquids is not much, simple distillation cannot be used to separate them.

• The vapours of such liquids are formed within the same temperature range and are condensed simultaneously. The technique of fractional distillation is used in such cases.

• In this technique, vapours of a liquid mixture are passed through a fractionating column before condensation. The fractionating column is fitted over the mouth of the round bottom flask.

• Vapours of the liquid with higher boiling point condense before the vapours of the liquid with lower boiling point. The vapours rising up in the fractionating column become richer in more volatile component. By the time the vapours reach to the top of the fractionating column, these are rich in the more volatile component.

• A fractionating column provides many surfaces for heat exchange between the ascending vapours and the descending condensed liquid.

• Some of the condensing liquid in the fractionating column obtains heat from the ascending vapours and revaporises. The vapours thus become richer in low boiling component. The vapours of low boiling component ascend to the top of the column. On reaching the top,the vapours become pure in low boiling component and pass through the condenser and the pure liquid is collected in a receiver. After a series of successive distillations, the remaining liquid in the distillation flask gets enriched in high boiling component.

𝐄𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐬𝐮𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐯𝐚𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐦𝐧 𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐚 `color{green}("theoretical plate")`.
𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐡𝐧𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐟𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐞𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 `color{green}("crude oil in petroleum industry.")`

`color{red}("Distillation under reduced pressure: ")`

• This method is used to purify liquids having very high boiling points and those, which decompose at or below their boiling points.

• Such liquids are made to boil at a temperature lower than their normal boiling points by reducing the pressure on their surface.

• A liquid boils at a temperature at which its vapour pressure is equal to the external pressure. The pressure is reduced with the help of a water pump or vacuum pump).

• Glycerol can be separated from 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐭-𝐥𝐲𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐚𝐩 𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐲 by using this technique.

`color{red}("Steam Distillation:")`

• This technique is applied to separate substances which are steam volatile and are immiscible with water.

• In steam distillation, steam from a steam generator is passed through a heated flask containing the liquid to be distilled.

• The mixture of steam and the volatile organic compound is condensed and collected. The compound is later separated from water using a separating funnel. In steam distillation, the liquid boils when the sum of vapour pressures due to the organic liquid (`color{red}(p_1)`) and that due to water (`color{red}(p_2)`) becomes equal to the atmospheric pressure (`color{red}(p)`), i.e. `color{red}(p =p_1+ p_2)`. Since `color{red}(p_1)` is lower than `color{red}(p)`, the organic liquid vaporises at lower temperature than its boiling point.

• Thus, if one of the substances in the mixture is water and the other, a water insoluble substance, then the mixture will boil close to but below, 373K. A mixture of water and the substance is obtained which can be separated by using a separating funnel.
• Aniline is separated by this technique from aniline – water mixture

`color{red}("Differential Extraction:")`

• When an organic compound is present in an aqueous medium, it is separated by shaking it with an organic solvent in which it is more soluble than in water.

• The organic solvent and the aqueous solution should be immiscible with each other so that they form two distinct layers which can be separated by separatory funnel.

• The organic solvent is later removed by distillation or by evaporation to get back the compound.

• If the organic compound is less soluble in the organic solvent, a very large end. The mixture adsorbed on quantity of solvent would be required to extract even a very small quantity of the compound.

• The technique of 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 is employed in such cases. In this technique same solvent is repeatedly used for extraction of the compound.


`color{brown}("The name chromatography is based on the Greek word chroma")``color{brown}("for colour since the method was first used for")` `color{brown}(" the separation of coloured substances found in plants.")`

• Chromatography is an important technique extensively used to separate mixtures into their components, purify compounds and also to test the purity of compounds.

• In this technique,the mixture of substances is applied onto a stationary phase, which may be a solid or a liquid.

• A pure solvent, a mixture of solvents, or a gas is allowed to move slowly over the stationary phase.

• The components of the mixture get gradually separated from one another. The moving phase is called the mobile phase.

• Based on the principle involved, chromatography is classified into different categories. Two of these are:

`color{green}("(a) Adsorption chromatography")`

`color{green}("(b) Partition chromatography.")`

(a) 𝐀𝐝𝐬𝐨𝐫𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡𝐲:

• Adsorption chromatography is based on the fact that different compounds are adsorbed on an adsorbent to different degrees.

• Commonly used adsorbents are silica gel and alumina.

• When a mobile phase is allowed to move over a stationary phase (adsorbent), the components of the mixture move by varying distances over the stationary phase. Following are two main types of chromatographic techniques based on the principle of differential adsorption.

(a) Column chromatography, and
(b) Thin layer chromatography.

`color{red}("Column Chromatography:")`

• Column chromatography involves separation of a mixture over a column of adsorbent (stationary phase) packed in a glass tube. The column is fitted with a stopcock at its lower end.

• The mixture adsorbed on adsorbent is placed on the top of the adsorbent column packed in a glass tube. An appropriate eluant which is a liquid or a mixture of liquids is allowed to flow down the column slowly.

• Depending upon the degree to which the compounds are adsorbed, complete separation takes place.

• The most readily adsorbed substances are retained near the top and others come down to various distances in the column.

`color{red}("Thin Layer Chromatography:")`

• Thin layer chromatography (TLC) is another type of adsorption chromatography, which involves separation of substances of a mixture over a thin layer of an adsorbent coated on glass plate.

• A thin layer (about 0.2mm thick) of an adsorbent (silica gel or alumina) is spread over a glass plate of suitable size. The plate is known as thin layer chromatography plate or chromaplate.

• The solution of the mixture to be separated is applied as a small spot about 2 cm above one end of the TLC plate.

• The glass plate is then placed in a closed jar containing the eluant.

• As the eluant rises up the plate, the components of the mixture move up along with the eluant to different distances depending on their degree of adsorption and separation takes place.

• The relative adsorption of each component of the mixture is expressed in terms of its 𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫 i.e. `R_f` 𝐯𝐚𝐥𝐮𝐞.

`color{red}(R_f = " Distance moved by the substance from base line (x)"/"Distance moved by the solvent from base line (y)")`

• The spots of coloured compounds are visible on TLC plate due to their original colour. The spots of colourless compounds, which are invisible to the eye but fluoresce in ultraviolet light, can be detected by putting the plate under ultraviolet light.

• Another detection technique is to place the plate in a covered jar containing a few crystals of iodine. Spots of compounds, which adsorb iodine, will show up as brown spots.

• Sometimes an appropriate reagent may also be sprayed on the plate. For example, amino acids may be detected by spraying the plate with ninhydrin solution.

`color{red}("Partition Chromatography:")`

• Partition chromatography is based on continuous differential partitioning of components of a mixture between stationary and mobile phases.

• In paper chromatography(Partition chromatography), a special quality paper known as chromatography paper is used.

• Chromatography paper contains water trapped in it, which acts as the stationary phase.

• A strip of chromatography paper spotted at the base with the solution of the mixture is suspended in a suitable solvent or a mixture of solvents.

• This solvent acts as the mobile phase. The solvent rises up the paper by capillary action and flows over the spot. The paper selectively retains different components according to their differing partition in the two phases. The paper strip so developed is known as a chromatogram.

• The spots of the separated coloured compounds are visible at different heights from the position of initial spot on the chromatogram.

• The spots of the separated colourless compounds may be observed either under ultraviolet light or by the use of an appropriate spray reagent.