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Isolation of R-(+)-Limonene from Oranges using Steam Distillation

Experiment #17 from Organic Chemistry with Vernier

Education Level


Natural products are compounds produced by living organisms. Recently a great deal of exploration has been done involving the use of natural products in pharmaceutical drug discovery and drug design. Extraction of natural products from organisms is an important part of modern organic chemistry. One commonly performed natural product isolation is the extraction of R-(+)-limonene from the fruit of Citrus sinensis (i.e., the orange tree). This enantiomeric form of the molecule is responsible for the characteristic odor of citrus fruits.
Many natural products, like R-(+)-limonene, have chiral centers making them optically active. In this experiment, you will isolate limonene via steam distillation. The resulting mixture of water and limonene will be allowed to separate, and the limonene removed via Pasteur pipet. Finally, you will compare the optical purity of your isolated limonene to a neat sample using polarimetry.


In this experiment, you will

  • Isolate R-(+)-limonene from oranges by performing a steam distillation.
  • Compare the enantiomer of the synthesized limonene to neat limonene using polarimetry.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following sensors and equipment. Additional equipment may be required.

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This experiment is #17 of Organic Chemistry with Vernier. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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