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Chemistry Hemp Oil Extraction Using Supercritical Carbon Dioxide


President, M³ Technical & Regulatory Services, LLC
Cannabis sativa L. is a species of plant (also known as hemp) with high economic and pharmaceutical potential. Their seeds are a source of all essential amino acids (mostly Ile, Phe and Val) and fatty acids (ω-3 and ω-6) and other compounds such as sterols and tocopherols. 1,2 This way, hemp seeds oil may be used in Food (nutritional supplements), Cosmetic (body lotions, conditioners, soaps and shaving products), Pharmaceutical (as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hypocholesterolemic) and Fuel (biodiesel) Industries. 1,2 CO2 has long been used in the Chemical Industry due to its non-toxicity and stability, but it has received more attention and investment in recent years with the discovery of its potential as a solvent in chemical processes. Achieved by changing CO2 from a gaseous state (with very low density) to a supercritical state (with higher density), the ability to rigorously control these variations in density, and consequently in dissolution capacity, provide the necessary tools to use supercritical CO2 as a renewable solvent. Therefore, since the supercritical CO2 can be achieved at low temperatures (32 °C), it can be used as a solvent for several heat sensitive organic compounds. 2 Hence, this extraction method is ideal for the extraction of plants and seeds oils. 2 Given the importance and value of the oil that can be extracted from the hemp seeds and the advantages of an extraction using supercritical CO2, it is possible to create a large scale industrial process that is both viable and is within the principles of Green Chemistry & Green Engineering.