To extract essential oils from plant matter (amongst other purposes), steam distillation is often used. I've seen a lot of different glassware setups for this. I've sometimes seen them broken into two categories:
- Internal steam distillation
- External steam distillation
Here's my (admittedly shaky) understanding of each:
With internal steam distillation, you have one boiling flask containing plant matter and liquid water. You simply boil the mixture and send the gas to to the condenser.
With external steam distillation, you have two flasks. One contains water only. You heat this one and route the steam into the second flask. The second flask contains a mixture of water and plant matter. The steam from the first flask combines with the liquid mixture in the second flask. Optionally, the second flask also has a heating mantle. The output of the second flask then goes to the condenser.
What is the effect of using one or the other setup? External is substantially more complex, so I can't imagine it would be used if it didn't offer some advantages in some circumstances. When would you use external, and why?