Dean-Stark apparatus, Dean–Stark receiver, distilling trap, or Dean–Stark Head is a piece of laboratory glassware used in synthetic chemistry to collect water (or occasionally other liquid) from a reactor. It is used in combination with a reflux condenser and a batch reactor for continuous removal of the water that is produced during a chemical reaction performed at reflux temperature.
Two types of Dean-Stark traps exist – one for use with solvents with a density less than that of water and another for use with solvents with a density greater than that of water.
The Dean-Stark apparatus typically consists of vertical cylindrical glass tube, often with a volumetric graduation along its full length and a precision stopcock at its lower end, very much like a burette. The lower end of a reflux condenser fits into the top of the cylinder. Immediately below the joint between the condenser and the cylinder is a sloping side-arm that joins the cylinder to a reaction flask. The lower end the side-arm turns sharply downward, so that the side-arm is connected to the reaction flask by a vertical tube.
The reaction flask is heated. Boiling chips within it assist with the calm formation of bubbles of vapor containing the reaction solvent and the component to be removed. This vapor travels out of reaction flask up into the condenser where water being circulated around it causes it to cool and drip into the distilling trap. Here, the immiscible liquids separate into layers (water below and solvent above it). When their combined volume reaches the level of the side-arm, the upper, less-dense layer will begin to flow back to the reactor while the water layer will remain in the trap. The trap will eventually reach capacity when the level of the water in it reaches the level of the side-arm. At this point, the trap must be drained into the receiving flask. The process of evaporation / condensation / collection may be continued until it ceases to produce additional amounts of water.