Understanding Short Path Distillation Techniques


Short path distillation is a transformative procedure. It is transforming how distillation is done in many industries. The process involves the use of high temperatures and vacuum pressure on small laboratory apparatus. It has several advantages, such as minimum losses of product quality and efficient operation with small sample sizes. Short path distillation can gently separate out heat-sensitive compounds rapidly, resulting in a faster completion time. Consequently, it has been increasingly favored by industries that require exact, efficient means of dissolving. There are several ways to use it; this makes it an indispensable tool in contemporary laboratories.

In this blog post we are going to explore short path distillation process from all its dimensions including how it works, its benefits and how it’s used in the real world today. Whether you’re a veteran chemist or simply curious about this intriguing technique, join me on this journey. We shall attempt to unravel what short path distillation is.

What is Short Path Distillation

short path distillation (Molecular distillation) which is also known as a short path distillation is an efficient and gentle way of separating heat sensitive compound at lower temperature and pressures compared to traditional methods. It is ideal for materials that are susceptible to thermal degradation or decomposition, hence, it has found many uses in labs today.

How does Short Path Distillation Work?

The basic principle of short path distillation is to reduce the vapor’s journey from,evaporating flask to condenser. Specialized glassware such as,short path distillation kit or short path distillation apparatus are used in this technology that has a smaller design with small gap between evaporation and condensation surface.

In an ordinary short path distillation set up, the sample is placed into a heated flask and put under vacuum pressure. With increasing temperature, the compounds with lower boiling points start vaporizing first and travel over a short distance to the condenser where they are cooled down and collected. This process continues until all the desired fractions have been separated.

For successful performance of short path distillation , you need:

  • Heating equipment: It raises feed material’s temperature to its evaporation point; may be heat source or water bath depending on conditions.
  • Rotary evaporation flask: The vessel where the feed material evaporates; Rotations prevent formation of hot spots and promote uniform evaporation hence it serves as an ideal option for separation process.
  • Condenser: Its purpose is cooling down and condensing evaporated components of feed material.
  • Vacuum pump: It helps in reducing system pressure thereby reducing boiling points of feed vessel contents.
  • Receiving flask: This is where condensed distillate will be collected

Short-path distillation apparatuses are made compact together with vacuum pressure application thus enabling effective separation of compounds without any significant thermal degradation. Additionally, thin film within heated-flask during the process also enhances effectiveness even more about fractionation by short-path technique which makes it supreme option for dealing with heat-sensitive materials.

Main Advantages of Utilizing Short Path Distillation

There are several advantages of applying short path distillation over traditional distillation techniques. This makes it the most common laboratory choice for many applications in different industries. This technique can help you achieve high distillate purity levels in laboratory applications . For such reasons, it has become especially important in fields like process chemistry and production of CBD oil. Let us look at these benefits individually.

Short Path Distillation

Minimal degradation of product quality

Short path distillations have good performance when it comes to separating heat sensitive substances such as essential oils, fragrances as well as natural extracts among others. The method used in this case is mild thereby allowing isolation of these fragile substances without interfering with their aroma profile or other properties (Bunce 2014). Therefore, this method can be used to make high quality CBD oil among other delicate products.

Gentle and efficient separation of heat-sensitive compounds

Another major advantage related to short path distillations is its ability in handling few samples. Mostly applicable within research settings where materials could be limitedly available for use. With a SPD set up, researchers may operate on small quantities of components rather than substantial amounts thereby saving time and resources.

Lastly, a research conducted by Smith et al., (2018) shows how versatile and efficient it is at handling limited sample volumes citing an example of a study done in the Journal of Chemical Education where short path distillation was used to purify samples as small as 1 mL.

Ability to handle small sample volumes

Another significant benefit of short path distillation is its capability to handle small sample volumes. This is especially useful in research and development settings, where the availability of raw materials may be limited. With a short path distillation apparatus, scientists can work with smaller quantities of compounds, saving both time and resources.

According to a study published in the Journal of Chemical Education, short path distillation has been successfully employed to purify samples as small as 1 mL, demonstrating its versatility and efficiency in handling limited sample volumes (Smith et al., 2018).

Compact and versatile equipment setup

Short path distillations have been made compact and versatile. This is ideal for laboratories that are short on space. A small size for short path distillation kit means nothing more than installation and use with ease. Being modular, this machinery can be adjusted according to the specific demands of researchers such as those who deal with processes in chemistry.

Furthermore, short path distillations systems can work with a wide range of solvents and compounds making them useful in many applications ranging from extraction of natural products to synthesis of specialty chemicals.

Minimal degradation of product qualityPerforms well with heat-sensitive substances such as essential oils and fragrances, preserving their properties.
Gentle and efficient separation of heat-sensitive compoundsHandles small samples efficiently, suitable for research settings where materials may be limited.
Ability to handle small sample volumesCapable of purifying small quantities, saving time and resources in R&D environments.
Compact and versatile equipment setupCompact size is ideal for space-limited labs and can be adjusted to meet specific research demands.
Advantages of Short Path Distillation

Comparing Short Path with Traditional Distillation Methods

To really get the picture of short path distillation benefits, it is necessary to know how it differs from most conventional distillation methods. Although simple distillation and fractional distillation as traditional techniques are helpful in the lab, they often imply more elaborate apparatuses. Also, they may not work for all compounds. These are some of the main differences between short path distillation and the majority of conventional distillation methods.

Traditional distillations such as simple or fractional distillations separate substances according to their boiling points. Many uses can be served by these procedures. However, they usually require higher temperatures and longer paths of condensation which may lead to degradation sensitive molecules in them. Moreover, conventional evaporation devices may not be suitable for all kinds of compounds that can be used with short path analysis equipment.

Conversely, regarding reduced pressure vacuum and lower temperature range of working, short path distillation reduces the possibility of thermal decomposition by sensitizing the sample. Additionally, it takes a much shorter time for separation due to a few reasons:

  1. there is faster vaporization associated with fewer surfaces involved in heat transfer;
  2. less chance that vapors will mix or degrade during evaporation because small amounts contain fewer contaminants;
  3. direct contact with cooling water allows rapid removal of heat from surroundings;

this helps maintain low pressures when evaporation happens at high temperatures without any risk coming into being if required conditions aren’t maintained across its length so far light enough allowing heavy fractionating column lots under normal conditions! Thus making it easier for labs looking forward on ways simplifying their processes while dealing with many different compounds.

According to Johnson et al.’s (2019) comparative research published in Journal Separation Science, short pathway gave higher purity fractions along with more improved recovery percentages than the traditional fractional method used to isolate essential oils that are thermosensitive ones too long ago. This suggests that even a highly number of traditional modes of distillation, short path distillation is preferable for sensitive compounds and even when this process was compared to most conventional ways.

Short Path Distillation in Various Industries

Implementing Short Path Distillation in Various Industries

Short path distillation is a compact purification technique that is widespread in various industries. It serves in pharmaceuticals as well as natural product processing, etc.

Purification of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals

Short path distillation is commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry for purifying active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and fine chemicals. It is delicate which means that these sensitive compounds retain their therapeutic properties and purity. This helps meet the stringent quality standards required for drug manufacturing.

Fragrance and Essential Oils Extraction

The fragrance and essential oil industry depend much on short path distillation to extract and purify aromatic compounds. Fragrances desired from natural sources such as plants or flowers can be efficiently isolated by manufacturers using a short path distillation kit. At the same time, it maintains an original aroma profile of extraction material.

Natural Products and Extract Processing

Short path distillation also finds wide application in the natural products field especially with regard to herbal extracts, essential fatty acids as well as plant-based oils processing. This method separates bioactive compounds gently at low boiling temperatures therefore retaining their therapeutic characteristics.

Specialty Materials Synthesis

In materials science short path distillation plays significant role within synthesis of specific materials like high-purity monomers along with reactive intermediates amongst others. The researchers are able to control precisely the conditions of distillations through use of short path distillation apparatus enabling them obtain materials having desired properties with minimum impurities.

Food Industry Applications

Another place where short path distillation has made its way into is food industry for different purposes where it may be used such as purification and concentration of flavors, essences and edible oils. Various short path methods can be tailored towards fulfilling particular demands in food processing making them very flexible tools for a variety of uses in the food industry.

Bridging the Gap: Short Path Distillation and Rotary Evaporators

But even though short path distillation process is strong on its own, it can be fortified by coupling with other complimentary technologies.

Rotary Evaporator Price
Rotary Evaporation

The rotary evaporators otherwise called rotovaps are very multipurpose lab equipment used for efficient removal of solvents from samples. One major advantage of using a rotary evaporator for short path distillation is that it can satisfy the need of a small distance. By placing the rotating flask close to the condenser, the length between vapors is shortened, so that faster operation time and more pure distillate can be obtained.

Moreover, rotary evaporators are compact size and space-efficient making them ideal for labs with limited bench space. Benchtop rotary evaporators in particular are highly advantageous options for installations of short path distillation as they can handle small quantities of compound without occupying much space. This aspect is especially useful for research and development laboratories where multiple experiments may need to run at once.

GWSI one of the top manufacturers of laboratory equipments has designed several types of rotary evaporators that are best suited for short path distillation applications. Their range starts from 1L up to 50L hence offering different volume requirements. These high-quality machines have been designed to offer excellent performance, reliability, and ease-of-use.


Short path distillation completely changes the game in chemistry.This method provides gentle way of separating heat sensitive compounds quickly.It comes with many advantages such as minimum thermal degradation, handling small sample volumes and having compact equipment set up.Short path distillation has thus become indispensable for different industries.

In this blog post we have looked into the wide variety of applications of short path distillation.It applies to pharmaceuticals & fine chemicals,natural product processing,and specialty materials synthesis.The technique offers a new direction of purifying and separating substances for researchers and manufacturers.

Whether you are an experienced chemist seeking to improve your distilling techniques or simply inquisitive enough to want delve into interesting chemical separations through Short Path Distillations, then waste no time any longer because this is the best technique you should be learning. However, it can change the way we deal with heat-sensitive materials by being gentle yet providing optimal results.Its adoption can also catalyze innovation across various disciplines.

Make a point today to book a free trial or consultation with our experts inorder to witness for yourself.

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