Essential Oils - Uses for Supercritical Fluids

Uses and Markets for Supercritical Fluids


Essential oils can be primary ingredients in perfumes for cosmetics, soaps, and detergents. They form the basis of the spices in our foods. So then why the interest in extracting essential oils with supercritical CO2? Because the use of essential oils continues to be "essential" for modern living.


The more we learn about the positive effect essential oils can have on our health and wellbeing, the more we worry about how those essential oils are produced.


So then why the interest in using supercritical fluids (i.e. CO2):


No Solvent residue. No health hazard. Maintains a "natural" state.

As with natural products, supercritical fluid CO2 extracts the fragrances more efficiently than petroleum based solvents but, maybe more importantly, upon returning to an ambient state the CO2 becomes a gas, leaving no residue. The fragrance is in its unadulterated state. There is no solvent taste or smell.


Mild Extraction Conditions – 31°C temperature

With temperatures less than body temperature (37°C), little thermal degradation of sensitive compounds occurs. Steam distillation is used in many current procedures, but with this exposure to temperatures over 100°C, many of the “top notes” are destroyed or are swept away, severely reducing their yield.


Fractionation - easy using only CO2 - CO2 is a "tunable solvent"

Load the feedstock into an extraction vessel only once and then by only changing pressure of the supercritical fluid CO2, you can make it have the solubility characteristics of a myriad of different petroleum based solvents. You don’t need to add or change solvents.


Sometimes supercritical CO2 can be used in conjunction with more traditional methods such as soaking perfume feedstocks in an organic solvent for a period of time. The organic solvents containing the extracted the perfumes (essential oils) and accompanying waxes is then decanted and evaporated, leaving a concrete. The essential oils can easily be separated from the wax with supercritical CO2 and because of the low temperature, the process gives high recoveries.

Applied Separations have a proven commitment to advancing Supercritical Fluids technology and have worked with companies all over the world to incorporate supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) into their processes. Thanks to their world class R&D team, in-house engineers, and visionary approach, Applied Separations work hard to develop and enhance applications of this green technology in many unexpected industries.


Have an application in mind? Please contact iBiosys Solutions and, together with Applied Separations, we will work with you to develop a supercritical fluid application fit for your needs.