Parameter control and particularly that over pressure, temperature, and flow rate is crucial to the success of supercritical fluid extraction(SCFE). Let us examine these one by one and then understand the role of automation and intuitive user interface in this context:
- Close pressure regulation is at the very heart of any SCFE system in India or the rest of the world. Pressure impacts density and density influences what the supercritical fluid (SCF) can and cannot dissolve.
- Temperature has an effect similar to that of pressure on the density of the SFF and, by extension, on supercritical extraction in India and elsewhere.
- Flow rate determines the yield, efficiency, and mass transfer rate of the SCFE system in India and rest of the world.
- Co-solvent addition in the required quantity in order to improve the capacity of the supercritical fluid to isolate compounds other than those that it is naturally good with. When CO2 is used as the SCF, for example, ethanol, water, and methanol serve as co-solvents for better extraction of polar compounds. CO2 is naturally good with extraction of non-polar compounds.
Automation virtually eliminates human errors and ensures seamless continuity between various stages of the supercritical fluid extraction process, or any other engineering operation for that matter. Intuitive user interface enables the operator to better understand the on-going process.
By maintaining the parameters at the required quantity, automation ensures a fool-proof process. And by enabling the operator / supervisor to better comprehend the process, the intuitive user interface helps with monitoring of supercritical extraction in India and the rest of the world.
Parameter control is not as simple as it appears. Take the case of co-solvent pumps in supercritical fluid extraction as an example. Supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) is naturally good at extracting non-polar compounds from the raw material. To improve its capacity to separate polar compounds as well, SCFE systems in India or anywhere else for that matter use co-solvents such as ethanol, water, and methanol.
In order to be effective, the co-solvent pump has to maintain a measured flow of the co-solvent – which is some percentage of flowing sCO2. This is where the importance of automation comes into play. After setting the co-solvent pump, all that the operators of plants for supercritical extraction in India and elsewhere have to do is monitor the process. Automation will ensure that the pump operates as expected. And the intuitive user interface takes care of clarity for the operator – who can monitor the process with relative ease.
Some SCFE systems are equipped with extractor changeover valves for rapid switching between extractors. With valves rapidly changed, the downtime falls to minimum. This is another advantage of automation. Extractors and separators work respectively at higher and lower pressures. The solvent power (or capacity to dissolve the compounds in the raw material) of the SCF is high at high pressure and low at low pressure. It is important to maintain the pressure levels inside both these pieces of equipment. Intuitive user interface will ensure that the operator can easily set and monitor these pressure levels.