With increasingly polluted skies and seas, and mounting garbage piles on land, our Earth continues to cry “Uncle.” Relentless packaging waste and the over extraction and burning of fossil fuels offer glimpses into the Earth’s banshee wail. Burning fossil fuels creates greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and studies have demonstrated its contribution to rising, global temperatures. Thus, CO2 exemplifies a notorious environmental villain.
Due to its ostracization, CO2 comes very cheap. It can be captured from industrial processes or by giant machines that exemplify innovation meant to change the world. Once captured, it can be repurposed for greener applications. By manipulating its temperature and pressure, supercritical CO2 can be used for cleaning up soils, water, and removing organic contaminants from plastic waste so the garbage can be recycled. Repurposed CO2 can supplant toxic chemicals used for dry cleaning, for medical device sterilization, and botanical extraction and purification.
The villainous CO2 can also be used for supercritical fluid chromatography, or SFC. This technique can be used for analytical or preparatory purposes. In analytical SFC, sCO2 provides the mobile phase to enable analyte separation, replacing organic solvents like methanol and acetonitrile, both of which are health hazards that require remediation.
SFC provides a powerful method for product purification, whether for separation of enantiomers (mirror-image molecules) in a racemic drug, remediating THC from federally legal hemp products, or purifying individual terpenes from an essential oil.
As our Earth bakes and shudders, we can mitigate CO2 generation and reform captured CO2 for greater good. Nowhere is this more vital than in the soaring cannabis industry. Medicinal plant cultivation and product design should not further exploit our Earth.