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Binary Distillation with the McCabe-Thiele Method

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Binary Distillation with the  

McCabe-Thiele Method 


Samir Khan 

Adept Scientific plc 


Binary fractional distillation is a method of separating two liquid components via a distillation column (which contains a number of trays, or stages).  It's a concept encountered by virtually every Chemical & Process Engineering student.  This application calculates the required number of theoretical stages for a set of specified operating parameters via the McCabe-Thiele method.  It plots the classic McCabe-Thiele diagram and evaluates the minimum and actual reflux ratio, and the thermodynamic state of the feed.   


This application also highlights several Maple concepts. 

  • The ability to instantly observe the effect of changes in operating parameters.

  • Text boxes for the input of operating parameters

  • Maple's programming language to calculate the number of theoretical stages required for the distillation process and error-checking of unrealistic operating parameters (i.e. try making the fraction of light component in the feed greater than than in the distillate)

  • The precise control over the appearance of a plot for presenting engineering information.

  • The use of document blocks for suppressing the display of code, allowing students to concentrate on the engineering fundamentals.


Note: Execute the entire worksheet (with !!!) once before changing any parameters. 

Operating Parameters 

Mole Fraction of Light Component in Feed 

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Mole Fraction of Light Component in Distillate 

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Mole Fraction of Light Component in Bottoms 

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Reflux Ratio as a Multiple of Minimum Reflux Ratio 

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Thermodynamic State of Feed (q-value) 

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Relative Volatility of Binary Feed 

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Draw McCabe-Thiele Plot 


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