Constructing a simple distillation apparatus to purify seawater: A high school chemistry experiment

Alandra Kahl, Danita Heller, Kim Ogden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This experiment combines the chemistry of solution separation via distillation with the engineering design process to motivate students in a high school chemistry course. Students build upon their knowledge of phase changes and solubility to complete a project related to chemical engineering by desalinating a water sample similar to seawater. In general, students remove very little of the salt, but the emphasis is on the creation of the system rather than achievement of pure water. Resources for learning about distillation, an exercise description, exercise worksheets, and assessment plans are provided in the supporting information. This experiment fits well into a general chemistry curriculum or an environmental science course. It takes a minimum of 5 standard (1 h) class periods, but can be expanded or downsized as is appropriate. Student feedback was generally positive because the students enjoyed solving a "real-world" problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-556
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 8 2014


  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • Inquiry-Based/Discovery Learning
  • Laboratory Equipment/Apparatus
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Separation Science
  • Water/Water Chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Education


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