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Publication Title | Supercritical Fluid Applications in Manufacturing and Materials Production

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Supercritical Fluid Applications in Manufacturing and Materials Production



Environmentally friendly supercritical CO2 and its associated technologies are being used in many applica- tions to replace hazardous solvents, lower costs, and improve efficiencies. Some of the applications requiring a supercritical fluid pump include:

● Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE)

● Supercritical Fluid Chromatography (SFC)

● Catalysis/Reaction Feed

● Injection molding and Extrusion

● Particle Formation

● Cleaning

● Electronic Chip Manufacturing

● Plastics Production

Teledyne Isco Syringe Pumps, which are excellent CO2 pumps or Supercritical Fluid pumps, are used in R&D and production in many of these applications. Syringe pumps are well-suited for use with Supercritical Fluids and can operate at high pressures with great accuracy and reliability.


Supercritical fluids are very dense gases with many properties superior to liquids or solvents. While there are many fluids that can be used in their supercritical state, CO2 is the one most often used because it is con- sidered environmentally friendly in comparison to strong solvents, and its critical temperature point and operating pressures are relatively easy to work with.

Syringe Pump Application Note AN1

350 300 250 200 150 100



-100 -80 -60 -40 -20 0 20 40 60 80 Temperature (Celsius)


Supercritical Fluid



Critical Point

Figure 1: Phase Diagram of Carbon Dioxide

A phase diagram for CO2, shown in Figure 1, displays the relationship between pressure and temperature. When the conditions of pressure and temperature are altered, the phases of CO2 can be changed to a solid, gas, or liquid. However, when above the critical temper- ature, Tc, CO2 becomes supercritical, and can no longer be changed back into liquid by increasing pressure. In this state, CO2 will remain a gas-like fluid even though it may be approaching the density of a liquid at very high pressures. Its supercritical properties include solvating power similar to liquids, but with the penetrating or dif- fusion properties of a gas.

All molecules have both kinetic and potential energy. Kinetic energy is defined as energy of molecular motion, while potential energy is stored energy of an object rela- tive to its position. The potential energy of attraction between molecules is known as the Van der Waal force.

The process of dissolving is directly affected by the Van der Waal force between solvent molecules and solute molecules. Surface tension and viscosity increase as this force makes solvent molecules draw closer together, leading to decreased diffusion and inhibiting the processes of solvating, extraction, and cleaning.

Kinetic energy will overcome the Van der Waal force if the solvent temperature is raised above the critical point, thereby reducing the attraction between the mol- ecules. This lowers surface tension and viscosity, and increases diffusion capability, enabling the solvent to penetrate more deeply into and around small pores and features.

It should be noted that while supercritical CO2 is excellent for dissolving small, non-polar organic com- pounds, it is less effective in dissolving many polar or ionic compounds and large polymers (except for fluori- nated oligomers).

Solvating properties can be improved with the addi- tion of small amounts of other fluids or modifiers. This can include fluids, additives such as ethanol or water, or fluorinated detergents.


Due to lower toxicity as compared to common organic solvents, and being ubiquitous in nature, CO2 has high promise in replacing Freon and organic sol- vents in many industrial manufacturing processes. Even though CO2 does have some shortcomings, research is currently being done to overcome these problems

Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE) — Examples of extractions include removing fats from foods, or even pesticides from soils or foods. Traditionally, these extractions were performed with hazardous solvents,

Boiling Line

Pressure (Atmosphere)

Melt Line

Image | Supercritical Fluid Applications in Manufacturing and Materials Production

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