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CHEM 333L

Organic Chemistry Laboratory Revision 2.1

Steam Distillation of an Essential Oil

In this laboratory exercise we will employ Steam Distillation to isolate an Essential Oil from either Mint leaves or Orange rinds. This will involve distilling a mix of the plant material and Water to obtain the Oil, extracting the Oil from the Water, and then isolating the Oil from the extraction solvent. In the end, we will analyze the Oil’s composition by separating its constituents using Gas Chromatography.

Essential Oils are a mix of fragrant compounds common to a number of plants such as Mint, Lavender, Pine, etc. which are isolated via steam distillation. Because these Oils were once considered to be the essence of the plant, they were initially sought as possible pharmaceuticals and are a part of early medicine's contribution to modern chemistry. Today they are used as flavorings, perfumes and deodorants.

Essential Oils are mixtures of organic compounds that are dominated by the Terpenes and the Terpenoids, oxygen containing derivatives of the terpenes. Terpenes themselves are a class of compounds built on the five carbon skeletal fragment of Isoprene.

Isoprene

However, most terpenes are biologically synthesized from Geranyl Pyrophosphate, which contains two Isoprene units bound together head-to-tail:

Geranyl Pyrophosphate

So, the carbon backbones of most terpenes contain a multiple of ten Carbon atoms. For example, Limonene, the major constituent of the Oil of Orange has the formula C10H16.

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