(also called affining
) is the process of purification
of a substance
. The term is usually used of a natural resource
that is almost in a usable form, but which is more useful in its pure form. For instance, most types of natural petroleum
will burn straight from the ground, but it will burn poorly and quickly clog an engine with residues and by products. The term is broad, and may include more drastic transformations, such as the reduction of ore
(for which see Refining (metallurgy)
The refining of liquids is often accomplished by distillation or fractionation. Gases can be refined in this way as well, by being cooled and/or compressed until they liquefy. Gases and liquids can also be refined by extraction with a selective solvent that dissolves away either the substance of interest, or the unwanted impurities.
Many solids can be refined by growing crystals in a solution of the impure material; the regular structure of the crystal tends to favor the desired material and exclude other kinds of particles.
Chemical reactions are often used to remove impurities of particular types.
The use of silicon and other semiconductors in electronics is highly dependent on precise control of impurities, and a number of special techniques have been developed, such as zone refining.
Types of materials that are usually refined: