Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Solvent recovery - DIY Alembik

bearbot22 - 31-7-2023 at 06:29

I'm looking for a way to distill smaller amounts of solvent. In my case Isopropyl alcohol which i use for washing 3d-printed UV-Resin.
Looking on the web, I found moonshine-stills for a gallon and up only.

But I also found the "Alembik" and a Japanese Version called "ranbiki".
Thinking the condensing dome looks a bit like bottom of an Drink Can i came up with an idea:

But maybe someone has a better solution for this?

sodacan_alembic.png - 120kB

sodacan_alembic_draft.png - 50kB

Sulaiman - 31-7-2023 at 15:17

IPA vapour mixed with air can be explosive,
so you need to balance the risk and cost of diy
vs. purchasing new IPA

What quantity of IPA would you like to process per batch?

bearbot22 - 1-8-2023 at 01:20

I build a can-Alembik first try today and -as expected- it was far from perfect.

Could not manage to push one can inside another. Widening a can's body did not work for me. So i cut a 2" middle piece of a can, sliced it lengthwise and wrapped it around the collecting ring.
Put this on top of the Boiler-can and fixed with Tape.

Heating the boiler-can with a candle works for very small amounts like 30ml. For bigger amounts better use a heating plate.

Main problem is sealing. The tape fell off after seconds and most of distilled isopropan was running down outside of boiling can.
I will improve and keep you updated.

can_still_sideview.jpg - 74kB

Sulaiman - 1-8-2023 at 02:03

Very nice!

I would prefer the tube with the distillate to be longer so that the IPA liquid and vapour are not so close to the flame.

I don't know if it's significant but
hot IPA may react with aluminium

bearbot22 - 2-8-2023 at 07:49

Thx for the reply.
I'm using a hot water bath now.

Drink Cans are coated on the inside, so i guess Aluminium isopropoxide is no problem here.

Dr.Bob - 2-8-2023 at 09:27

You can buy a distillation kit used on Ebay for a $100-200, I would do that in a minute if I really wanted to distill a flammable solvent and recover any useful amount of it without burning down my lab.

arkoma - 2-8-2023 at 13:25

ebay link.

For five more dollars can get one with a vigreux column too.

Raid - 2-8-2023 at 15:05

I like the concept, but the idea of having an open flame when distilling solvents does not seem like a good idea...

Twospoons - 2-8-2023 at 16:54

I would have thought something like a small steel paint can with a coil of copper tubing as a condenser would suffice for crude solvent recovery. Should be easy enough to seal the joint between can and tube with solder.

bearbot22 - 3-8-2023 at 00:13

today i got the improved sodacan-alembik to work and i'm quite satisfied with it.

as i found out, some beverage brands use slightly wider cans. once cut open one fits inside another just perfectly sealed and aligned.
flowout tube design was also improved for better sealing.

distilled 150ml old IPA in about 30min. exchanged cooling can two times.
Big plus:no scrubbing! just dump the boiling-can with all gag and resin and use a new one for next distill.

beveragecan_bottom.jpg - 57kB drain_ring.jpg - 52kB outflow_detail.jpg - 38kB drain_outflow_detail.jpg - 116kB sodacan_alembik_drawing.png - 112kB sodacan_alembik_2.jpg - 161kB

I like it.!

Sulaiman - 3-8-2023 at 19:59

Ingenius... Nicely done.

If sagging or chemical compatibility of the plastic tube becomes a problem,
maybe a s/s drinking straw would look good?
More ingenuity may be required to securely collect the distillate.

bearbot22 - 5-8-2023 at 07:39

Hi Sulaiman! I appreciate your reply, thanks!


If sagging or chemical compatibility of the plastic tube becomes a problem, maybe a s/s drinking straw would look good?

A rigid outlet could easily tear open the can and would need proper fixing. It could be done by cutting a thread in the s/s straw and fixing it with nuts and washers.

I'd rather stick to the hose for safety-reasons:
In case any pressure builds up inside the alembik - the hose will just pop-out.
For recovering solvents that attack silicone, a EPDM, NBR or Teflon-Tube might be used instead?


More ingenuity may be required to securely collect the distillate.

To prevent evaporation of freshly distilled IPA the collecting beaker can be covered with a watch glass. For more volatile solvents I'd use a bottle with a plug with borehole instead.

DIY Destillation Device Howto

bearbot22 - 6-8-2023 at 02:32

Anyone who wants to give the sodacan-alembik a try will find instructions in the attached file.

IMHO the sodacan-alembik is a good apparatus if your project might require distillation but you want to try before investing in glassware.

Or if you have solvent mixed with remains that are very hard to clean off your glassware after distilling.

Let me know if you've been building a sodacan-almbik!

Attachment: SODACAN_ALEMBIK_HOWTO.pdf (501kB)
This file has been downloaded 87 times