How Water Distillation Works: DIY a Simple Desalination Unit


When speaking with folks about survival conditions or self-reliance expertise, you might have heard the subject of distillation come up. 

Many folks affiliate the time period distillation with the manufacturing of alcohol, which it actually is part of. But it has different functions as nicely. Let’s begin with a easy definition of this time period. 

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines distillation as “the process of purifying a liquid through evaporation and condensation.” 

Pretty easy, proper? No? Okay, let me break this down right into a easy step-by-step course of. 

Breakdown of Water Distillation

According to the above definition we wish to purify a liquid which suggests we wish to separate the liquid from different liquids or substances. 

So for instance, I’m going to speak a few combination of water and alcohol. 

Now, the very first thing that’s wanted is an equipment for conducting this experiment. 

In its most straightforward type, a distiller is made up of 5 elements. 

A container to boil the combination in, a warmth supply for boiling the combination, a tube for transferring the evaporated liquid, a cooling supply for condensing the liquid, and a set container.

In my instance, the water and alcohol combination are put into the primary container after which heated. Water has a much increased boiling level than alcohol so the alcohol will evaporate first.

As the combination is heated the alcohol will flip right into a gasoline (evaporation) and rise upward. It will then be pressured into the switch tube. 

Here it’s cooled by both air or extra generally chilly water that surrounds the switch tube. When it cools, it condenses again right into a liquid. The liquid then flows into the gathering container.

During the method, some water could also be transferred over with the alcohol which is why the method could also be repeated multiple occasions. When the method is repeated extra of the alcohol is separated from the water and a better yield of alcohol is achieved. 


Distillation and Survival Situations 

Other than being consumed, alcohol has its place in aseptic strategies. But when it comes to survival conditions, distillation is extra essential in creating potable water

The hottest instance is popping saltwater into freshwater. This course of is known as desalination and is nearly the identical as described above with one small distinction. 

A combination of saltwater is positioned right into a container after which heated. As the water is heated it turns right into a gasoline (evaporates) and travels upward whereas leaving the salt behind within the container.  

The gaseous water travels by the switch tube, is cooled, and is collected on the opposite facet. As easy as this sounds, in a survival scenario, the supplies could also be tough to return by to correctly assemble a desalination unit. 

But you don’t have to attend for such a scenario to come up to make certainly one of these as a result of they are often helpful even if you’re not stranded on a abandoned island surrounded by saltwater.


How to make a Simple Desalination Unit

To show you the way easy it’s to make certainly one of these I made a decision to not order or purchase any particular supplies. Instead, I can be making one out of supplies that I discovered round my residence. 

Boiling Container 

The first merchandise that I wanted was a container to boil a mix of water in. for the reason that container goes to be subjected to excessive temperatures a container created from plastic is out of the query. 

I made a decision on a glass jar with a lid. Some thinner-walled glass bottles might not be acceptable to make use of as they may shatter whereas being heated up. 

Now, in a real survival scenario, a plastic container can be utilized to boil water at low temperatures. But because the plastic is heated, dangerous chemical substances can leach into the water provide. In such a scenario it’s as much as you to determine if circumstances are dire sufficient to drink from such a supply. 

Transfer Tube 

Now on to the switch tube. I discovered a small size of copper tubing within the storage area that ought to work nicely for this goal. Small copper tubing is frequent if one is aware of what place to look.

Again, i’d suggest staying away from basic use plastic tubing for this goal. The steam that’s getting into the switch tube is sort of sizzling and should trigger the tubing to leach. 

Collection Container

As far as the gathering container goes, virtually something can be utilized. But, ideally, the gathering container can be sealed across the copper tubing to forestall any steam that didn’t condense, from escaping. 

I made a decision to make use of one other glass bottle with a screw-on lid. I then poked a gap in each lids that have been just a bit bit smaller than the copper tube. When I pushed the tube by the opening, the lid sealed decently across the tube. 

Cooling Method

The very last thing to contemplate is the cooling technique across the copper tubing. Now i’ve accomplished this earlier than and permitting the tube to chill by air does work, simply not effectively. Cooling by air might produce a mix of steam and liquid water. 

“Contaminated water” can be utilized to chill the tube by merely wrapping a moist rag across the tubbing. However, the rag should be wetted quite a few occasions all through the method as a result of the tubing will warmth up over time.

When utilizing untreated water to chill the switch tube ensure that none of it will get into the clean water assortment container. 


Testing it Out

For demonstration functions, I made a decision to do that inside on the stove high utilizing a double boiler technique. 

To begin, I positioned a good quantity of salt into the glass jar. I didn’t measure the quantity of salt, however it’s greater than sufficient to show the water right into a milky white colour. 

Next, I linked up the tubing, set all the things what place I wished it to go, and commenced heating. 

I made a decision to opt-out of cooling the tube with water and as a substitute wished to see how nicely air cooling would work. 



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