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Distillation is the process of separating the components or substances from a liquid mixture by selective boiling and condensation. Industrial distillation is typically performed in large, vertical cylindrical columns known as distillation towers or distillation columns with diameters ranging from about 65 centimetres to 16 meters and heights ranging from about 6 meters to 90 meters or more.
When the process feed has a diverse composition, as in distilling crude oil, liquid outlets at intervals up the column allow for the withdrawal of different fractions or products having different boiling points or boiling ranges.
The “lightest” products (those with the lowest boiling point) exit from the top of the columns and the “heaviest” products (those with the highest boiling point) exit from the bottom of the column and are often called the bottoms.