Molecular distillation endeavors to separate substances under very vacuum pressure, typically 0.01 torr and below. The process involves purification of substances through separation under extremely high temperatures, as well as the concentration of natural complex substances that are thermally sensitive. The vacuum hastens this process by reduction of pressure, which reduces substance boiling points. This makes the energy used to heat substances lower.
In a nutshell, it’s a short-term process that involves exposure of a distillate liquid to high thermal temperatures under extremely low vacuum pressure. As it is a separation process, it is mainly used to concentrate valuable compounds and purify substances by removing undesired products. Here’s how the process is applied:
What Are the Applications of Molecular Distillation?
This falls under the removal of undesired compounds. Most oil products like butter, margarine, cooking fat, and cooking oil often have a label that says ‘No Cholesterol’. Have you ever wondered how cholesterol, a harmful substance to the body is removed? Through molecular distillation. Under 10-4 torr pressure and 2500 Celsius, cholesterol can be removed by 90% from lard and butter within a short span of two hours. Molecular distillation is used in the purification of oils by using the difference in boiling point where different crude materials evaporate and are collected from the mixture.
In another scenario, the process has been used to remove organic pollutants like chlorinated pesticides from fish oils. When fishes ingest products at sea, they take in some organic pollutants carried ashore from agricultural lands. To avoid harmful effects when consumed, the fish oil undergoes molecular distillation. Studies show that the process achieves up to 94.8% reduction of organic pollutants. Note that not all pesticide types will be separated by molecular distillation hence the need to identify all present pollutant types before and after distillation.
Concentration and/or fractionation of compounds
Some products may be present in scarce amounts in mixtures, and molecular distillation is applied to increase their concentration. One of these is carotene, a type of pigment. Through molecular distillation, carotenoids are extracted from palm oil and after a couple of reputations, concentrated carotene collected. This can be done under 1700 Celsius and 0.00009 torr pressure which could yield more than 30 times the original amount.
Squalene, yet another product, is a hydrocarbon also concentrated by molecular distillation. It is extracted from alkali-refined amaranth seed oil. Under 0.001 torr pressure and 1800C, it can be concentrated by 70%. Other products include milk fat and other fatty acids.
Carotene and squalene are used in the manufacturing of skin products, to improve the moisturizing feature of lotions and other skin products.
This is the removal of acids or the reduction of acidic components from products by removing molecules responsible for the acidity. Removing free fatty acids from vegetable oil, for example, could reduce the free fatty acid component by more than 80%, deacidifying it.
Evidently the applications of molecular distillation are present in our day-to-day lives, closer than we may think. It’s in the food we eat, deodorants, lotions and so on. The knowledge of molecular distillation has truly revolutionized product manufacture.