This article is about using reflux in chemical engineering and chemistry. For other usage, see Reflux (disambiguation).
The reflux system in a typical industrial distillation column
Reflux is a technique involving the condensation of vapors and the return of this condensate to the system from which it originated. It is used in industrial and laboratory distillations. It is also used in chemistry to supply energy to reactions over a long period of time.
1 Reflux in industrial distillation
2 Reflux to regulate energy in chemical reactions
3 Reflux in laboratory distillation
4 Reflux in beverage distillation
5 See also
7 External links
Reflux in industrial distillation
The term reflux is very widely used in industries that utilize large-scale distillation columns and fractionators such as petroleum refineries, petrochemical and chemical plants, and natural gas processing plants.
In that context, reflux refers to the portion of the overhead liquid product from a distillation column or fractionator that is returned to the upper part of the column as shown in the schematic diagram of a typical industrial distillation column. Inside the column, the downflowing reflux liquid provides cooling and condensation of the upflowing vapors thereby increasing the efficiency of the distillation column.
The more reflux provided for a given number of theoretical plates, the better is the column’s separation of lower boiling materials from higher boiling materials. Conversely, for a given desired separation, the more reflux is provided, the fewer theoretical plates are required.
Reflux to regulate energy in chemical reactions
Laboratory reflux apparatus for adding energy to a chemical reaction
A liquid reaction mixture is placed in a vessel open only at the top. This vessel is connected to a Liebig or Vigreux condenser, such that any vapours given off are cooled back to liquid, and fall back into the reaction vessel. The vessel is then heated vigorously for the course of the reaction. The purpose is to thermally accelerate the reaction by conducting it at an elevated temperature (i.e. the solvent’s boiling point).
The advantage of this technique is that it can be left for a long period of time without the need to add more solvent or fear of the reaction vessel boiling dry as any vapour is immediately condensed in the condenser. In addition, as a given solvent will always boil at a certain temper