Another form of distillation involves heating out of free contact with air such substances as wood, coal, and oil shale and collecting separately the portions driven off; this is known as destructive distillation. Wood, for example, when treated in this way yields acetic acid, methyl or wood alcohol, charcoal, and a number of hydrocarbons. Coal yields coal gas, coal tar, ammonia, and coke. Ammonia is also obtained by the destructive distillation of oil shale.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.