Short Path Distillation & Fractional Distillation

What is short path distillation?

Fractional distillation is a process in which one separates compounds via boiling/condensation, using a vacuum pump. By adding a vacuum, you remove the atmospheric pressure inside your system. When the pressure is lowered, you reduce the boiling points of the compounds contained within. This process makes it faster and more efficient to distill heavier molecules.

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Short Path Distillation Guide

Short Path Distillation & Fractional Distillation Products

How short-path distillation works:

Illustrated Short Path Kit
The term gets its name from the short distance that distillate vapor travels in these systems. Typically, the distillate vapor only has to travel a few inches in total.

With a vacuum applied to the total setup, the distillate vapor passes from one flask (or another piece of glassware) to another, which separates and purifies the sample in the process.

A heating mantle heats the substance, which vaporizes your desired end product. These vapors rise up through a distillation head, where they condense and trickle down into one or more collected evaporating flasks.

The simplicity of the system makes it so effective and easy to use.

While the initial sample or compound may have undesirable substances contained within, the resultant output is a highly pure, condensed, final product.

In some cases, a second pass may be desired, but this is usually due to operator error or to a problem occurring with the first pass.

Thanks to the reduced pressure of the vacuum system, the amount of heat necessary to achieve your desired results can be considerably lower than it would otherwise have to be. This is especially useful for sensitive organic compounds which may have adverse reactions (or even combust) at higher temperatures.

Reduced pressure safely lowers the boiling point of your compounds, giving you a pure distillate without damaging your valuable products in the process.

Wiped/Thin Film Distillation Systems vs. Benchtop Distillation Systems:

What’s the difference?

Fractional Distillation is not a new method. In fact, there are numerous methods to separate compounds, and short-path distillation is just one widely accepted way.

Distillation systems are commonly used for the separation of oils, fats, chemicals, fragrances, and other compounds.

Wiped/Thin film distillation and benchtop distillation are the two main types of short path distillation systems being used in the industry today. There are numerous machines and methods for achieving separation of compounds, but this section will focus on benchtop systems, and thin/wiped film systems, and how you can decide which one is right for you.

Wiped/Thin Film evaporators are usually towards the top of a user’s budget, and some systems can cost upwards of one hundred thousand dollars. Benchtop kits, on the other hand, are in the several thousand to low tens of thousands range.

Pros and Cons of Two Popular Fractionation Methods:

Fractionating Compounds Chart
Wiped Film Pros and Cons

Consider production output vs. cost to make a decision.

Production output versus cost is a key factor when considering which system to purchase, and the ability to alter the flow rate of the system is of the utmost importance here. While both systems have adjustable output, only one will gain or lose lab space as you change the output rate.

The removable heads on benchtop systems will also allow them to fit into numerous places around the lab. This allows you to move the unit with ease, and you can (re)set up the kits in varying configurations to increase lab flow.

Which solution is better for lab flow?

Laboratory Flow

Lab flow is very important in a lab, because you want everything to be as efficient as possible. Wiped/thin film setups are usually stationary.

If they are seated on a moving cart, they may only be able to fit in specific places. This can reduce lab flow drastically, especially when you only have a limited space in which the machine can be placed.

Summary: making an informed decision.

Evaporating Flask Illustration

During the use of these machines, broken parts can and will happen; Benchtop distillation parts will be considerably cheaper to replace when compared to a wiped/thin film distillation setup. Wiped/thin film systems contain an array of specialized, unique parts, which if broken would be very expensive to fix or maintain.

Benchtop distillation units, on the other hand, employ the use of more economical glassware. Not only are these components less expensive to reproduce, but they also achieve the same end products.

While separation is absolutely possible with both units, you should ask yourself if spending the extra money for the same results is worth it for you and your laboratory. These costs compound when you factor in not only the initial cost but also the cost of annual maintenance and the limited functionality of the equipment.

From our point of view, both solutions are viable, and you should choose based on production capacity and budget. That’s why we carry a variety of both types of distillation systems. To meet the needs of any laboratory or operation.

Why choose Lab Society for distillation?

We make the world’s best fractional distillation products, including complete benchtop distillation kits and thin/wiped film systems. All of our patent-pending kits are made in the USA from the finest quality materials on the market.

Flimsy parts? Cheap products? You won’t find any of that here. Years of R&D have gone into our patent-pending Benchtop Short Path Distillation and Fractional Distillation products. We’ve stress-tested everything. We’ve broken everything. We’ve improved on everything. And we’ve made it better.

If you see the “LS” logo, you’ll know that it represents industry-leading quality.

Fractional Distillation Systems Lab Society - Made in the USA - American Made
Our company was built on our fractional distillation kits and products, and we stand behind their quality. For us, it’s not just theoretical: we’ve worked with our own equipment extensively, and we’ve helped numerous laboratories get established with them.

With each new version, we redesigned custom-made glass components that just weren’t quite right. Sometimes little manufacturing errors don’t appear until you’ve been running a unit for hundreds of hours straight. What you see here are units that have been battle-tested over years in the real world.

We also listen to feedback.

We’ve noticed and improved upon common industry problems.

Since its inception, Lab Society’s goal has been to lead the charge in the short path distillation movement with both benchtop and thin/wiped film systems.

Built from real industry feedback.

Our competitive advantage has been listening to our customers every step of the way. We get feedback from real industry professionals every day, and we incorporate it into each new product we make.

That’s how we stay ahead of the curve.

Patent-Pending Technology.

Lab Society's First Distillation Head
We were the first in the industry to create and develop our patent-pending technology for each apparatus and kit.

Products like our Structured Glass Packing, our entirely custom-made heating mantles (which heat from the bottom and the top), and of course, our branded laboratory glassware are all original Lab Society creations.

And they’re all made right here in the USA.

A vacuum distillation apparatus that can pay for itself.

In certain industries, our kits have proven to pay for themselves in their very first run of operation.

All of our kits are priced competitively while providing far greater value and longevity than other products in the space. Each kit improves the potency of the distilled sample while creating far less “wear and tear” than similar systems.

Refined over the years.

As the saying goes, this isn’t our first rodeo, and we’ve had a lot of time to think about all the tiny details that go into building the world’s most effective and affordable benchtop distillation apparatus. We know that output is important to you and that your livelihood depends on getting results.

Our systems can achieve greater output – in far less time – than our competitors. And unlike some companies, you won’t have to wait all year for custom glass parts to be made.

When you see these systems for yourself, you’ll recognize that they’re built to last.

It’s the little things.

They say the devil is in the details… In how it all works together. In taking the time to focus on when, where, how, and why a component fails. It’s the mentality of constantly improving that has led us to our current generation of kits and complete systems.

We put our phone number on the top of every page, because we want you to know that this brand is built on integrity, hard-working people, and longevity.

We’re in it for the long run, and we’re here to stay. When you make a purchase from Lab Society, you’re also getting world-class technical support.

We help our customers long after the sale is made, that’s how we create customers for life. Ask us about our comprehensive training programs, so you and your staff can get educated and up to speed on how best to use our kits and products in your own laboratory.

We’re confident that we’ve created industry-defining fractional distillation solutions for our market. We know that you need our products to work for you, not just run once and break due to faulty engineering or poor quality control.

We believe that there’s a big difference between slapping a sticker on a cheap product and calling it your own, and actually taking the time to build something of value. Real product development takes time. Building new short path and vacuum distilling products that meet the demands of the future is hard work.

You might be surprised to learn how long it’s taken us to get our flagship benchtop distillation products and distillation heads to market.

Great quality is great quality – and that’s what Lab Society stands for.


  • Our complete benchtop kits do not come with vacuum pumps or with chillers by default. We can bundle them for you if you like, but we leave them out to accommodate our customers who already have these items in their lab.
  • For a complete lab set-up, consider pairing a kit with a rotary evaporator or a vacuum oven. Purchasing these items separately gives you the freedom to buy the versions you like best and to create your own, custom solutions.
  • Call us for recommendations, or if you want us to build a kit just for you.