Ethanol, more commonly known as ethyl alcohol (or grain alcohol) is a colorless liquid known for being highly volatile and inflammable. It is used as an additive in a wide range of products- be it gasoline, spirits, food, or beauty products.
Ethanol is produced by the process of fermentation of various substances like corn, wheat, potatoes, sugar cane and barley. Owing to its plant based origin, ethanol is widely favored as a renewable energy source.
Benefits of Ethanol Extraction
As a solvent, ethanol is favored over others because:
1: It costs lesser
2: It is able to extract a wider range of compounds
3: It consumes lesser power than other solvents
4: Ethanol is less toxic than other solvents (According to the Food and Drug Administration, ethanol is classified as a Class 3 solvent).
5: It accounts for faster extractions
With the right method and the right ethanol extraction equipment in place, it has also contributed a great deal to the pharmaceutical manufacturing field.
For a while now there has been some debate on the best practices of ethanol extraction. It is important to remember that each method has its drawbacks, and great effort is being put into addressing the limitations of the ethanol extraction process.
The process of ethanol extraction greatly depends upon the temperature of the solvent; meaning, the process can be carried out under cold or warm room temperature. Both these options can be carried out in a simple set up, without specialist equipment.
Extracting at Room Temperature
Extractors prefer to extract ethanol in warmer conditions, as they have been noted to yield better results than when they are extracted in a supercooled setup.
Ethanol in warmer conditions is known to create more potent extractions, and achieve better plant profile without having to cool or heat the equipment. This leads to lower equipment costs with a better quality product.
A popular method of warm ethanol extraction is the Soxhlet technique.
By means of a Soxhlet extractor, warm ethanol is passed repeatedly over raw plant material kept in the equipment. An oil refinement technique, winterization, is then carried out to set the crude extracts in very low temperature. Following this, the ethanol is removed through a rotary evaporator.
The Bottom Line
The right ethanol extraction equipment and process of extraction can be both expensive or economical depending on the extractor and the method they choose. As a solvent, ethanol has emerged a winner in the extraction process for its high potency and solubility. With a little technique we could be moving towards revolutionizing medicines and enhancing product quality, giving users the satisfaction and quality they have always looked for.