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Distillation is a chemical process where a mixture made of two or more liquids (called "components") with different boiling points can be separated from each other. The mixture is heated until one of the components boils (turns to a vapor). The vapor is then fed into a condenser, which cools the vapour and changes it back into a liquid that is called distillate'. What remains in the original container is called the "residue". A fractionating column (that is a distillation column with more than two outlets) can be used to improve the separation. Fractional distillation can be used to purify crude oil so that it can become useful and can be used for various things.
This has been used for a long time, to distil alcohol and produce distilled beverages. Distillation is a commonly used operation in oil industry, where it is used to separate various fuels and raw materials from crude oil.
Distillation can be done anywhere, whether it's in a house or a laboratory, but in most countries it is illegal to distil alcohol without a license. Illegally distilled alcoholic drinks are called moonshine.
Sometimes the desalination of water is called also "distillation", but this is a different process. In fact water distillation is used to separate a liquid (water) from solids (salts), instead the alcohol distillation it is used to separate two liquids (alcohol and water).
- "Moonshine 'tempts new generation'". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-10556048. Retrieved 2013-06-23.