iBiosys - Healthy World - Supercritical Fluid Extraction

SCF Industry Uses



No toxic solvents. No residue. 

Carbon dioxide is a good solvent for many non-polar and some polar molecules with low molecular weights, but it is a very poor solvent for most high molecular weight polymers at normal operating conditions.


The solubility of most polymers in carbon dioxide is extremely low, but in reverse, the solubility of carbon dioxide in many polymers is substantial. This can lead to a dramatic decrease in the glass transition temperature (Tg) of these polymers at modest pressures. The plasticization of polymers by carbon dioxide plays a key role when purifying, extracting, foaming, or processing thermally sensitive materials.

Carbon dioxide is a good plasticizing agent for a multitude of polymers, including polystyrene, polyethylene, poly-(ethylene terephthalate), polyisoprene, polypropylene, poly(vinyl chloride), nylon and poly(2,6-dimethylphenylene oxide). Carbon dioxide has also been shown to plasticize polymethacrylates, polycarbonates, polyurethanes, polyimides, crosslinked elastomers, and a number of block copolymers and polymer blends.

iBiosys - Supercritical Fluid Extraction - Polymers
iBiosys - Polymer Extraction and Purification using SCF

Most popular supercritical CO2 applications


Polymerization Reactions in Supercritical CO2
In heterogeneous polymerization, plasticization increases the diffusion of monomer and initiator into the polymer phase. An example of this effect is the formation of polymer blends by polymerization within a CO2-swollen host polymer.



Polymer Extraction and Purification

Frequently, it is necessary to extract small molecules like plasticizers, antioxidants, UV stabilizers, residual monomers, oligomers, or solvent residues from polymer matrices. Extractions can be required for analytical analyses, improvement of polymer properties, or for regulatory requirements when using polymers for biomedical materials. In many instances, non-toxic supercritical CO2 can be used to replace the toxic organic solvents traditionally used to analyze and process polymeric materials.

Most popular supercritical CO2 applications

Supercritical Blending of Additives into Polymers

The blending of additives into a polymer can be enhanced with supercritical CO2. The dissolution of CO2 into a polymer matrix causes the polymer to swell and lowers the melting temperature of the polymer. Additives can now be easily mixed and distributed with the melted plasticized polymer. Once a homogeneously mixed system is obtained the vessel contents are rapidly depressurized through an orifice resulting in the cooling and solidification of uniform blended particles at low temperatures.


Polymer Coatings
The unusual solubility of amorphous fluoropolymers and silicones in supercritical CO2 makes these materials attractive candidates for “solvent-free” coating applications. The process entails placing a material to be coated into a vessel, dissolving a fluoropolymer or silicone polymer in supercritical CO2, and depressurizing the vessel causing the deposition of the now insoluble polymer on the surface. An alternative technique depressurizes the dissolved polymer through a spray nozzle onto the surface of the material to be coated.

iBiosys - Polymer Coatings - Supercritical fluids
iBiosys - Textile Dyeing - Supercritical Fluids

Most popular supercritical CO2 applications


Polymer Impregnation and Dyeing (see Dyeing)
The swelling of a polymer matrix with supercritical CO2 is exploited in many infusion, deposition, or impregnation applications. Waterless dyeing of polymeric materials, the formation of polymer blends, and the deposition of organometallic compounds into polymer hosts are a few examples.



Porous Polymer and Microcellular Polymer Foams

Carbon dioxide has been used as a foaming agent for microcellular polymer foams and can eliminate the need for porogenic solvents in the formation of porous polymers. Conventional processes often require large volumes of toxic organic solvents and leave traces of solvent trapped within the polymeric matrix.