What is CO2 extraction?
Supercritical CO2 is becoming an important commercial and industrial solvent due to its role in chemical extraction in addition to its low toxicity and environmental impact.
The relatively low temperature of the process and the stability of CO2 also allows most compounds to be extracted with little damage or denaturing. In addition, the solubility of many extracted compounds in CO2 vary with pressure, permitting selective extractions.
Supercritical carbon dioxide is used as the extraction solvent for the recovery of essential oils and other herbal distillates. Its main advantages over solvents such as hexane and acetone in this process are that it is non-toxic and non-flammable.
Furthermore, separation of the reaction components from the starting material is much simpler than with traditional organic solvents, merely by allowing it to evaporate into the air or recycling it by condensation into a cold recovery vessel. Its advantage over steam distillation is that it is used at a lower temperature, which can separate the plant waxes from the oils.
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