This is a solar alembic, or pot still, made from square foot mirrors, which can produce between 2 and 5 ounces of distillate on a lazy sunny afternoon.
Please note: it is illegal to distill ethanol except for fuel, and you must have a federal permit to do so. However they are not that hard to get, and our government is actually encouraging the citizenry to experiment with this which is why I'm writing. I am with a group who have one.
Here is the link for a permit, which you MUST have. You need to specify that you will be making alcohol for fuel on the permit application.
You need 3 square foot mirrors, about $7 at your hardware store to build the reflectors..
Cut a 1 inch hole in the middle of your jar lid to allow the beer bottle to poke through.
The unit goes together as shown. Since you're not going to be drinking this, but are rather making fuel, you don't need to condition you copper tubing.
If you are distilling for ethanol, you are required to put a 'spoiler' into your collector jar. A bit of gasoline will make it unpalatable, however I have tried using rubbing alcohol, since I know what the proof (% of alcohol) is on that as per the label, whereas I'm unsure of gas.
So far testing proofs has been iffy, but I have learned to easily tell if the distillate is over 50%. Vodka, at a rating of 40% WILL burn. However, it takes a very good lighter, and some patience. It will burn though as I can attest.
Here is how i check to see if it's above 50%, which lights so much easier than vodka. It is a beer can upside down (I use fosters, since it will easily hold 10CC of fuel). Measure 10CC into the cup and light it. If it lights easily, you've got over 50%. After it burns out, measure the remaining water, and by some math you can figure out your %, or Proof as they say. (Proof is 2X the %)
If I have 4CC left over, then my distillate was 60%.
Try burning 10CC of 91% rubbing alcohol, and you can get a feel for proofs.
Of course the best way to test is to use an alcometer.
This is a set-it and forget-it device. Point it at just slightly South of where the sun sets, and it'll do all the work by itself. When it's distilled most everything, refill the mash jar, but pour the leftover mash onto your compost heap. Or you could perhaps water your plants with it, it is certainly sterile by this time.
This post is not intended to nor does it wish to promote the illegal distilling of 'moonshine', but rather as a potential way for interested folks to learn how to make ethanol for fuel, or other non-alcohol products, including distilled water and essences as we progress toward sustainability and self sufficiency.
While some people dislike the idea of making ethanol from our corn and grains, the leftover mash is rumored to be a superior livestock food. And, why not glean some ethanol fuel out of it along the way if we insist on feeding grains to our cows? I believe the development of simple solar distilling can greatly improve the EROEI of ethanol, and perhaps reduce the cost by 60% or more.
Additionally with solar, there is no danger of flame ever catching the vapors on fire. It is flameless, if you don't count that great big ball of fire in the sky.