Laura Cristina Massaglia


Project Development

I decided to change my project idea to something that has to do with my degree (Chemical Engineer). I was very confused at first, so I brainstormed with my grandfather who is a chemist, and he told me to work on improving a system of essential oil extraction. In the laboratory, we are often working with steam distillation (a method for distilling compounds which are heat-sensitive). I have decided to use this method to separate the essential oils. By the end of the process, we will be able to separate the oil from the water. Usually we do it by using micropipettes once the oil floats to the top and the water sinks to the bottom.

In steam distillation, the boiling flash is infused with steam, which carries the oil’s vapor into the distilling head and then into the condenser, where the oil and water co-condense. As an alternative, steam is generated in situ in the distilling pot. By the end of the process a mixture of water and oil will end up in the receiving flask. The process to separate the oil from the water is difficult, we usually use micropipettes to separate the oil as I previously stated. My project on the other hand will be, to make a conic vassal, that will be a substitute for the receiving flask. The vassal will have one entrance at the bottom of the vase where the hydrolate will enter the conical and an opening at the top with a ramp where the oil will self-extract itself into the collection cup. The essential oil rises to the top because it is less dense then the water plus the conical shape itself allows for the formation of an additional separating force that helps the rising of the oil droplets. This force is a result from the differential between upward and downward velocities. Upward velocity increases as the internal section of the separator turns smaller and, on the other hand, downward velocity decreases as its diameter increases. The conical vase will also be designed with a cylindrical baffle on the interior to trap the incoming oil and water mixture, which improves the separation of the oil droplets from the water.

I discovered this project by fallowing this university “Instituto Federal de educação, ciência e tecnologia”. They did a similar project as you can see by clicking on the link.

The whole project approximately cost me and should cost anyone who does a similar project around $200. The majority of the materials used came from fab lab and the distillation equipment I ordered online.   

Distillation equipment:

Instead of using the 2000 ml round bottom flask placed at the end of the distillation equipment, I will use the essential oil extractor. I determined the size of the conical vase by running distillation experiments with water. The amount of liquid collected at the end of the experiment determined the volume of the conical vase. After running the experiment, I determined the conical vase should have a volume of approximately 325 ml.

The Essential oil conical vase and oil collector:

I needed to change the conical vase that I made in week 2, because it was too big. Below is the sketch of the new model. I used the 3D printer with ABS (Acylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) filament. It took 18 hours to print my model.

When I printed the final conical vase and oil collector I realized that the collector was too small. So, I designed a new one as show in the picture bellow.

(New Collection Cup)
New cone design using Solidworks:
As stated in the above section  the schematics and the design of my cone was flawed and didnt work so I created a new design using Solidworks. I also added on some improvements such as a larger collection cup and a opening/ramp at the top of the cone to more efficiently self extract the oil. Bellow is an image of the new design. Also  please click  on the links below to see the  dimensions.

Link 1
Link 2

Support table and legs:

I used plywood of 9mm for both the support table and legs and cut out the designs using the laser cutter. In week 3 you can see more about the legs. Since I had to change the size/volume of the conical vase I needed to redesign the support table while the legs staid the same. 

The final project by itself:

The conical vase will then be connected to the distillation equipment by a hose that will attach at the end of the condenser and at the entrance of the conical vase valve as you can see in the image below:

I decided to add on a system that will measure the temperature of the oil being extracted. I chose to make a Bluetooth temperature sensor and app to read the temperatures of the oils. The average temperature of the essential oil was 95 F right when it was draining into the collector. The input device I made in week 13  combined with the mobile app which I made in week 16 created the temprature sensor.

Below are the materials I used for the Bluetooth temperature sensor:

Bluetooth HC-06
Temperature sensor DS18b20
4 resistor 2K2 ohms
2 male jumpers
5 female jumper
4 male/female jumpers
USB cable
Input board

After I set up all the equipment and had all the materials ready, I started to grate the oranges, I used 13 oranges.

Quantity of material used:
312g orange to 1500ml water.

After I measured the weight of the 13 oranges and the water, I put both in the 2000 ml round bottom flask.


The heating mantle was switched on at an intensity 10, after 30 minutes the mixture boiled at 192.2 F degrees and remained constant during the process.

After boiling for 20 min, the orange peels began to rise because they were initially below the balloon. This happens because the orange zests density is greater than the density of the water. Distillation was completed after 1:30 min.

After I finished extracting the essential oil I put all the oil and water volume in a Becker to measure the oil quantity.The final volume of oil + water was approximately 325 ml. It was observed that only 25 ml of oil was distilled, so the remaining 300 ml were of hydrolate (water + oil mixture).

Here bellow is a picture of the full set up of the distillation equipment, the final project and the system I created.

Above is a close-up picture of the Bluetooth thermometer and app.

Final thoughts:

What tasks have been completed, and what tasks remain?
Project has been completed  no tasks remain.

What has worked? What hasn’t?
The collection cup worked well and the thermometer worked extremely well. Everything worked as planned.

What questions need to be resolved?
All my questions from the beginning have been resolved.

What will happen when?
Everything ran perfectly and at the end of the distillation process the collection cup was filled with oil and the thermometer was able to take the temperature of the liquid accurately .

What have you learned?
I learned more about project management and development as I was able to actually get a hands on experience during this project. I also learned more about different distillation process.
Evaluate project plan:

What went right and what went wrong during the execution of the project?

-Designed original conical vase to large and also didn't have a collection cup originally.
-When I created the the new conical vase I made a mistake and printed out a collection cup that was too small.
- My original design for the thermometer was flawed as it wasn't created for liquid as I was told by a fab lab technician.

- The conical vase worked perfectly and separated the oil into the collection cup.
- The base and the legs I designed worked perfectly to hold the conical cone.
- Thermometer and app worked very well.
- The distillation equipment worked well with my cone  design

Applied time management techniques:
As I had short time to finish the thermometer for my project and the SMD board wasn’t appropriate to put into the liquid, I had to use a breadboard and another temperature sensor to make it.

Project Files:

  Collection cup
      Link app
     Conical (Solidworks)
    •  Collection cup (Solidworks)
    •  Base (Solidworks)
    •  Legs (Solidworks)

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