This process can be termed as a physical separation process, as no chemical reaction occurs during the process and it just needs a right adjustment of the temperature according to the constituents that make up the liquids. At a particular moment, the boiling point of the natural products in the liquid form matches the atmospheric pressure.
Steam distillation process works on a very simple principle, that describes a way to separate miscible liquid on the basis of ease of being vaporized (volatility). In order to vaporize the constituents, the boiling point of products are minimized. The function of temperature is to differentiate the strength of vapor pressure exerted by the liquids. As the liquid boils, there comes a time in which the boiling point of plat material in liquid form matches the atmospheric pressure. In result, the vapor pressure of the complete system rises.
The steam distillation process is executed to extract essential oils from plant material. A steam generated through plant material is passed. In this process, temperature sensitive compounds are decomposed. They are subjected to steam in the distillation column, where they vaporize at lower temperature. The essential oils can be separated easily from chemically complex materials, as they are less soluble in boiling water.
In this process, as the steam passes through the plant material, tiny pockets in the material holding the essential oils open up and releases that oil molecules without damaging these delicate components. A blend of essential oils and water vapor are obtained in the form of distillate which converts into liquid form in the condensing apparatus. The essential oils are separated making use of a Florentine separator.
Using steam in the steam distillation process, allows distillate get more delicate flavor and aroma. This delicacy would breakdown if undergone high temperatures. Steam distillation process is the best for obtaining essential oils from plant material.
This process is widely executed for the production of essential oils, like perfumes. Plat material contains essential oil, which is extracted by passing steam through the material. This process is also applied in case when complex organic compounds are to be synthesized. Many kinds of essential oils are extracted at industrial scale by applying this method, for instance, orange oil, eucalyptus oil, etc. This process is also applied in the petroleum industries as well as in the production of consumer food products.