Suction filtration is a chemistry laboratory technique which allows for a greater rate of filtration. Whereas in normal filtration gravity provides the force which draws the liquid through the filter paper, in suction filtration a pressure gradient performs this function. This has the advantage of offering a variable rate depending on the strength of the pump being used to extract air from the Büchner flask. Care must be taken not to use such a strong vacuum that the filter paper rips (in which case all the solid will be lost back into the solvent) or in extreme cases the glass flask breaks. Suction filtration is used in recrystallisation experiments.

Principle of Suction filtration

By flowing through the aspirator, water will suck out the air contained in the vacuum flask and the Büchner flask. There is therefore a difference in pressure between the exterior and the interior of the flasks : the contents of the Büchner funnel are sucked towards the vacuum flask. The filter, which is placed at the bottom of the Büchner funnel, separates the solids from the liquids.

The solid residue, which remains at the top of the Büchner funnel, is therefore recovered more efficiently : it is much drier than it would be with a simple filtration.

The rubber conical seal ensures the apparatus is hermetically closed, preventing the passage of air between the Büchner funnel and the vacuum flask. It maintains the vacuum in the apparatus and also avoids physical points of stress (glass against glass.)

Suction filtration (vacuum filtration) is the standard technique used for separating a solid-liquid mixture when the goal is to retain the solid (for example in crystallization). Similar to gravity filtration, a solid-liquid mixture is poured onto a filter paper, with the main difference being that the process is aided by suction beneath the funnel (Figures 1.70 + 1.71).

Advantages and disadvantages of Suction filtration comparison to gravity filtration


1) Suction filtration is much faster than gravity filtration, often taking less than one minute with good seals and a good vacuum source. 2) Suction filtration is more efficient at removing residual liquid, leading to a purer solid. This is especially important in crystallization, as the liquid may contain soluble impurities which could adsorb back onto the solid surface when the solvent evaporates.


The force of suction may draw fine crystals through the filter paper pores, leading to a quantity of material that cannot be recovered from the filter paper, and possibly an additional quantity that is lost in the filtrate. This method therefore works best with large crystals. On small scales, the loss of material to the filter paper and filtrate is significant, and so other methods are recommended for microscale work.

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