A liquid-liquid extraction is a very common chemistry experiment. A typical extraction involves the separation of solutes based upon their polarity. The mixture of solutes is separated by removing a series of aqueous and organic solutions. In order to remove the solutes one at a time, acids and bases are added separately so that the solutes dissolve into the desired liquid layer.
Consider the following mixture: 31 g of methylamine (CH3NH2, pKb = 3.36), 92 g of formic acid (HCO2H, pKa = 3.77), and 94 g of phenol (C6H5OH, pKa = 9.95) dissolved among 1 L of water and 1 L of benzene. All three solutes start out in the benzene layer. They are removed in the following order: methylamine, formic acid, phenol. The removal of each solute is followed by the addition of water to bring the aqueous layer back to 1 L before the subsequent extraction. For each extraction, only 75% of the aqueous layer is drained from the solution.
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