Reporter 414, 9 February 1998

Critical breakthrough

A University company has made a breakthrough in a process with uses in industries as diverse as pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food processing, agriculture, metals processing and textiles.

ULIS company Express Separations Ltd, started up by Professors Tony Clifford and Keith Bartle, has developed the complete range of supercritical fluid extraction facilities, from initial laboratory scale trials on campus through to plant scale production.

Supercritical fluids possess unique properties which can be controlled by temperature and pressure to obtain a wide range of applications. The technology allows rapid extraction of targeted chemicals and essences using carbon dioxide and water as solvents. These are cheap, non-toxic, non-hazardous and recyclable. The technology is faster than traditional extraction processes.

Current applications of supercritical fluid technology include decaffeination of coffee and tea, separation of pesticides and herbicides from crops and crop extracts and decontamination of radioactive material.

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