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Industrial applications and current trends in supercritical fluid technologies

Author(s): Gamse Thomas

Journal: Hemijska Industrija
ISSN 0367-598X

Volume: 59;
Issue: 9-10;
Start page: 207;
Date: 2005;
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Keywords: supercritical fluids | extraction | fractionation | reaction | nutraceuticals | food

Supercritical fluids have a great potential for wide fields of processes Although CO2 is still one of the most used supercritical gases, for special purposes propane or even fluorinated-chlorinated fluids have also been tested. The specific characteristics of supercritical fluids behaviour were analyzed such as for example the solubilities of different components and the phase equilibria between the solute and solvent. The application at industrial scale (decaffeinating of tea and coffee, hop extraction or removal of pesticides from rice), activity in supercritical extraction producing total extract from the raw material or different fractions by using the fractionated separation of beverages (rum, cognac, whisky, wine, beer cider), of citrus oils and of lipids (fish oils, tall oil) were also discussed. The main interest is still for the extraction of natural raw materials producing food ingredients, nutraceuticals and phytopharmaceuticals but also cleaning purposes were tested such as the decontamination of soils the removal of residual solvents from pharmaceutical products, the extraction of flame retardants from electronic waste or precision degreasing and cleaning of mechanical and electronic parts. An increasing interest obviously exists for impregnation purposes based on supercritical fluids behaviour, as well as for the dying of fibres and textiles. The production of fine particles in the micron and submicron range, mainly for pharmaceutical products is another important application of supercritical fluids. Completely new products can be produced which is not possible under normal conditions. Supercritical fluid technology has always had to compete with the widespread opinion that these processes are very expensive due to very high investment costs in comparison with classical low-pressure equipment. Thus the opinion is that these processes should be restricted to high-added value products. A cost estimation for different plant sizes and different applications was also analyzed.
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