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Tiny Vac

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While in the process of setting up my evaporator, I decided to see how this tiny, homemade vacuum pump works. After a successful raid of my wife's kitchen (and so my downward spiral into Alchemy begins >.<), and a few holes later, I put together this little guy based off the video that was linked to in the "Making a vacuum pump...?" thread.

Direct link to video:

Total estimated cost is around $30.00 were you to pay for all the materials here. I had almost everything already lying around.

I turned the container over because the lid was double the thickness of the rest of the container, and the bottom was easier to drill (the container is made of plastic). I used an aquarium air pump instead of a tire pump. It has two outlets, which I Tee'd into a single outlet. It is smaller, and quieter, and though I have not yet measured the actual pressure, by feel I can assume it will suffice for my simple distillation needs. However, as the pressure builds, it works the pump harder than it is designed for. I will have a second pump on standby when I go to use this, because these things will most likely break mid-process--in which case, it would not be worth the upkeep and an investment in a proper vacuum pump would be more cost effective. The yellow objects above and below the push-pull fittings are a temporary seal made from old rubber flask corks, which also hold these fittings in place and will be replaced with brass bushings with the proper female size. All penetrations (as well as electrical connections) will be sealed with silicone. Please pay no mind to the dangerously crude electrodes sticking up (though in this form it would double as a one-shot cattle prod). It is in working order, though clearly incomplete.

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  1. Eshai's Avatar
    Eshai -
    Note: this pump is insufficient to distill ethanol using a rotary evaporator. My advice: if you are serious about vacuum distillation, break down and get and industrial pump.

    This was still a fun project, though. =)

    Further note: ethanol can be distilled in a rotary evaporator without a vacuum, providing you have a model where the glass motor neck can be removed (or a model where you can eliminate the motor coupling all together and go straight from the boiling flask to the condenser--though this effectively transforms your "rotary" evaporator into merely an evaporator). If doing this, the bump trap should also be removed.