CO2 Extraction

When life gives you lemons... use them to improve your yield! Successful extraction, while a precise science, can be mastered using a little creative comparison. Forget the intricacies of the equipment and technical terminology associated with it for just a second. Instead, grab a lemon (for visual purposes), and a pen and paper for notes, as we explore three ways to achieve the all-important high-yield extraction you’ve been searching for.

You Can Never Have Too Many Influencers

We’re not talking about social media here. The only influencer that matters is Starting Material, better known as the mass of plant matter that is added to the extraction chamber, and one of the most intuitive variables of the process. Fussy as it seems, the amount of the material mass isn’t the only factor influencing the output; it’s the makeup of the material itself.

Here’s where the lemon, a starting-material mass made of peel, pith, pulp, seeds, and juice, comes in nicely as an example. Joe’s decided to go into the beverage business and set up a lemonade stand at the farmers market. He’s calculated costs for production, projected profits, and created a recipe for pulp-free, unsweetened lemonade that calls for 100 kg of lemons. Where to begin seems simple enough, just grab a bag of lemons, right? The tricky part is that a lemon’s components are more than just juice, and thanks to the mass variety filling the supermarkets today, one lemon to the next is not made equally. For this particular case, let’s assume that from the lemons Joe’s using, that juice is about 80% of the mass (80 kg), leaving 20kg of everything else. While it’s clear a squeeze won’t result in 100% juice, he can’t afford to go about the task blindly.

No matter what material is used for extraction before the process even begins, take a step back and approach it like a scientist. To know if you are achieving a successful amount requires setting a standard, one that takes into consideration all of the variables that matter most. The good news is there’s a formula for that called the percent extraction efficiency (%EE). One variation of it will produce a theoretical yield and the other an actual yield, which when compared against one another will help you gauge the success of your extraction results. Sure, you may not get that 80% yield you anticipated, but so long as the theoretical matches or is near your actual, you can pat yourself on the back.

Yield Hack: Never Guesstimate

Don’t guestimate figures, take that formula and make it work for you, keeping in mind the use of correct parameters. It’s important to remember that %EE calculations are carried out with respect to the yield of the component of interest, not as compared to the entire mass of starting material. If you’re in doubt, refer to our zesty example that proves the mass of the lemon isn’t just juice.

Yield Hack: Take Intuition Out of It

Just because your output might feel heavier, doesn’t mean it’s the right output. Seeds, rinds, and pulp do not belong in a great lemonade, do they? Keep in mind that you have to identify the breakdown of the components of your Starter Material before you know what ratios you’re dealing with.

Size Matters

While mass and makeup are essential when considering the effect Starting Materials have on yields, so is size. If you’ve ever tried to fit two weeks’ worth in carry-on luggage and succeeded, then you likely rolled your clothes so tight not one inch of free space was left. It’s a similar concept that applies to the particle size of material that’s added to the fixed-volume extraction chamber. The finer the texture, the more that can be packed into the tight space efficiently. Doing so also reduces the distance and increases the speed for the solvent to penetrate the centre of the particle. Sports analogies are also great in instances like these, so let’s talk baseball. You have two players running at identical speeds to home plate. One is coming from the edge of the infield (fine-ground particle), and the other is sprinting from the edge of the outfield (course-ground particle). It goes without saying which one arrived first. If that isn’t enough, take a look at how size affects the surface-area-to-volume ratio. The smaller the particle, the more paths of interaction per particle volume. This enables the solvent to interact with the matrix of the feedstock material (CO2) more quickly.

Yield Hack: Pack it in Like a Pro

Just because your output might feel heavier, doesn’t mean it’s the right output. Seeds, rinds, and pulp do not belong in a great lemonade, do they? Keep in mind that you have to identify the breakdown of the components of your Starter Material before you know what ratios you’re dealing with.

Work Smarter Not Harder

In an industry where demand is growing, maximizing yields while minimizing costs is at the top of the priority list, but what that means isn’t as obvious as it may seem. Imagine a scenario where reaching 100% extraction efficiency results in a net loss of $8,000 due to the cost of running the equipment and facilities. Does 100% still hold the same value? Not if on the flip-side running three extractions to 70% efficiency turns a profit of $21,000. Seems counter intuitive, but what defines a profitable yield is more than just the extraction figures.

Time is a key factor, but there’s also the element of processing parameters that have a significant effect on extraction yields. System operators have to strike the right balance of temperature, pressure, and solvent to stock ratio in their quest for that sweet spot while working against the clock. While extraction systems are built to do the work, there’s an invaluable human element that is needed to optimize results. Let’s revisit our lemon example from earlier for a bit of context. If the operator’s goal is to achieve an output of lemon juice and zest, he’ll need to apply the perfect balance of temperature, pressure and solvent. After multiple failed attempts he’s landed on using a low or medium temperature and halt the extraction before the lemon peel is extracted.

Yield Hack: Ask Yourself if it's Worth It

Just because 100% extraction is achievable, doesn’t mean it makes business ‘cents’. Instead, evaluate run-time efficiencies and outputs against operating costs first to determine value. Your 60% yields may be the 100% you’re looking for.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach in the world of extraction, but with a stronger understanding of the key variables, and a firmer grasp on the techniques, the path to generating successful yields is within reach.

Thirsty for more? Contact us to see how our team of experts can help make your yield work for your business.