Interactive Self-Study Module: McCabe-Thiele Diagrams


This module uses screencasts and interactive simulations to explain how to use McCabe-Thiele diagrams for distillation columns, which are used to separate mixtures. It then provides a step-by-step quiz simulation and an example problem to allow the user to test themselves. Your retention of material in this module will increase if you write down reasons for your answers to ConcepTests, questions in screencasts, and questions to answer before using interactive simulations, and you try to solve the example problem before watching the screencast solution. We suggest using the learning resources in the following order:

  1. Attempt to answer the multiple-choice ConcepTest and solve the example problem before watching the screencasts or working with the simulations.
  2. Watch the screencasts that describe the derivation of the methods used to solve problems using McCabe-Thiele diagrams and answer the questions within the screencasts.
  3. Review important equations for McCabe-Thiele diagrams.
  4. Use the interactive simulations to further understand how distillation columns change when parameters are varied.
  5. Use the quiz interactive simulation to test your understanding by carrying out step-by-step preparation of the diagram to determine the number of equilibrium stages.
  6. Try to solve the example problem before watching the solution in the screencasts.
  7. Answer the ConcepTests.
  8. Look at the list of key points, but only after you try to list the key points yourself.
  • McCabe-Thiele diagrams are graphical methods used to understand the behaviors of distillation columns and estimate their sizes. 
  • This module is intended for a separations course.
Before studying this module, you need to be able to:
After studying this module, you should be able to:
  • Describe the meaning and application of reflux ratios, distillate compositions, and bottoms compositions for a distillation column.
  • Determine the number of equilibrium stages and output flow rates for a distillation column using McCabe-Thiele diagrams.
  • Develop feed lines and operating lines based upon the mass balances and equilibrium data for a system.
  • Determine the optimal feed location for a distillation column.