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A retort is an old type of lab glassware device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances.


The retort consists of a spherical or round vessel with a long downward-pointing neck. The liquid to be distilled is placed in the vessel and heated. The neck acts as a condenser, allowing the vapors to condense and flow along the neck to a collection vessel placed underneath.

Retorts were widely used by alchemists and early modern chemists. They are rarely used today, but there are a few reactions they can be useful for, for example, distilling nitric acid from nitrate salts.


Retorts can be purchased online or from lab suppliers.

DIY retort

A simple retort can be made by heating a glass spherical bottle using a torch and stretching its "neck". A hole is made on the top, which can be closed with a stopper. If you're skilled enough, a ground glass stopper from a broken glassware can be welded onto the glass.

Retorts can also be made from metal, copper or brass being the most commonly used materials.


See also


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