How do you separate mixtures?

Answer

Mixtures come in two forms—heterogeneous and homogenous. Homogenous mixtures are uniformly combined, with the same distribution of ingredients throughout. Heterogeneous mixtures, on the other hand, are not equal throughout.

In order to separate a mixture, there are several methods you can employ depending on the type of mixture and its ingredients.

  • Distillation is used to separate homogenous mixtures that are based in liquid such as water. The liquid mixture is heated until pure vapor rises up, leaving the heavier material that was suspended in the liquid condensed at the bottom of the container. The vapor is removed through a condenser tube and condensed into liquid in another container.

  • Filtration is a common way to separate soluble solids from a solution. The mixture is poured over an appropriately-sized filter. The solids remain on top of the filter, while the liquid drains into a container underneath.

  • Centrifuges are machines that put an object in rotation around a fixed axis, applying a force perpendicular to the axis. Centripetal acceleration causes denser substances to separate, moving toward the bottom of the tube, while the lighter substances will move toward the top.

  • Magnets can also be used to separate magnetic materials from a larger mixture. A real-life example of this is the use of electromagnetic cranes to separate scrap metals from a larger junk heap.

  • Evaporation is similar to distillation—liquid is heated to the point of vaporization, leaving behind solids behind. However, the evaporation method does not include distillation's final step of condensing the heated vapor into liquid.
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