Extracting omega-3 fatty acids using supercritical CO2 with LEWA triplex diaphragm pumps

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are used in drugs, but are also a common dietary supplement. In an extraction process, they are gained with the supply of supercritical carbon dioxide mainly from fish oils. Due to the combination of hermetic tightness, high achievable pressure and hygienic design, LEWA triplex diaphragm process pumps are ideal for this continuous processing.

Solutions

Advantages of LEWA triplex process pumps in the production of omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Hermetically tight 
  • High operational safety with CO2
  • Due to hygienic design especially suitable for food and pharmaceutical applications
  • Fulfillment of necessary standards and guidelines for production in regulated industries

Background

Obtaining omega-3 fatty acids using supercritical CO2

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human nutrition. The body can’t produce them by itself, though. That's why they are a popular dietary supplement. The fatty acids are extracted from fish oils or from sources of plant origin (e.g. algae).

The omega-3 fatty acids are distilled from the biomass using supercritical carbon dioxide in the Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE) process. The biomass is fed into an extractor, through which the supercritical carbon dioxide is led. The scCO2 (supercritical carbon dioxide) is an excellent solvent due to its special properties. The carbon dioxide is provided from a vessel and metered into the biomass tanks. While flowing through, it absorbs the omega-3 fatty acids. These are then segregated from the CO2 again in a separator by physical state changes back. 

In contrast to the use of classical organic solvents, such as acetone or ethanol, the process with supercritical CO2 is both more economical and more ecological. CO2 can be recirculated and thus reused immediately in a closed cycle. LEWA offers optimum pump solutions for these processes, which — despite the very specific properties of the supercritical carbon dioxide – perform their tasks safe, permanently reliable and efficiently.

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