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Distillation is the most widely used separation procedure in an industry scale production. It is an
important process in oil and chemical industries. Distillation results in high purity products. The
separation of a mixture by distillation requires a significant difference in volatility. It relies on
the difference in compositions between the liquid and the vapor in equilibrium with the liquid.
(Porter, 2011) [1]

By boiling the liquid feed, the mixture is separated into two phases, a vapor phase rich in the
more volatile component(s) and the liquid phase. The resulting liquid and vapor are in
equilibrium with each other. This separation of phases achieves component separation.
[Sorensen, 2014] [3]

For binary mixtures, or mixtures containing only two components, continuous binary distillation
can be employed. Continuous columns process continuous feed streams wherein no
interruptions can occur. These columns can handle high throughputs. [Das, 2012] [2] With
binary mixtures, the lighter component is richer in the vapor phase than the liquid phase. The
opposite applies to the heavier component. The vaporized component can be collecting by
making the vapor undergo condensation. The resulting product from the condenser is known as
the distillate, while the product collected from the remaining liquid is the bottoms.

Hydrogen cyanide or HCN is a highly volatile liquid with a boiling point of 25.6°C and a relative
density of 0.687 with respect to water. [O’Neil, 2006] [4] This high difference in boiling points
between HCN and water (100°C) makes distillation a very effective separation method to use.
With the large difference, a higher purity of HCN can be recovered. Other cyanide compounds
can also be present in water which will result in the formation of HCN. Some of these cyanide
compounds include cyanogen (NCCN), which has a boiling point of -20.7°C, and cyanogen
chloride (13.8°C), both of which have significantly lower boiling points than water. This makes
HCN a highly volatile compound, especially compared with water. Distillation also becomes an
important process in separating HCN from water as HCN is a potent greenhouse gas. The
condensing stage of the distillation process ensures less amount of HCN vapor escaping to the
atmosphere. [5] The distillation process is also known to prevent polymerization of hydrocyanic
acid. [Bartsch et al.,2003] [6] Hydrogen cyanide is also miscible with water. This solubility,
however, decreases as temperature increases. [7] This, added with the high difference in
volatility, makes distillation a very effective method for the separation of HCN and water.

[3] Sorensen, E. (2014). Principles of Binary Distillation. Distillation, 145–185. doi:10.1016/b978-
[4] O'Neil, M.J. (ed.). The Merck Index - An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals.
Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck and Co., Inc., 2006., p. 830
[5] (Vorsana, Inc., 2014)/waterpollution.html (2014)

(Porter, 2011) (Porter, 2011) (IIT GUWAHATI, 2012)

Works Cited
Bartsch, M., Baumann, R., Haderlein, G., Flores, M. A., Jungkamp, T., Luyken, H., . . . Bassler, P. (2008).
Patent No. US 7,462,263 B2. United States.
IIT GUWAHATI. (2012, June 26). Distillation. Retrieved from National Program of Technology Enahnce
International Cyanide Management Institute. (2018). Cyanide Species. Retrieved from Cyanide Species:
Porter, E. (2011, February 10). DISTILLATION. Retrieved from Thermopedia:
Vorsana, Inc. (2014). Methane and Cyanide in Wastewater. Retrieved from Vorsana:

(Bartsch, et al., 2008) (International Cyanide Management Institute, 2018)