The molecular basis of temperature effects in supercritical extraction

P. G. Debenedetti, S. K. Kumar

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The behavior of solute partial molar enthalpies in dilute supercritical mixtures gives rise to the well‐known phenomenon of retrograde solubility (equilibrium solubility decreasing with increasing temperature at constant pressure). A mechanistic interpretation of this phenomenon in terms of the formation of large clusters of solvent molecules around solute molecules is consistent with experimentally observed retrograde behavior. Cluster formation occurs as a consequence of the unbounded increase in the solvent's compressibility arbitrarily close to the latter's critical point. At infinite dilution, the solute's partial molar volume and enthalpy grow linearly with cluster size. This means that the negative divergence of these quantities is simply a macroscopic manifestation of a “condensation” in which an increasing number of solvent molecules cluster around solute molecules. Arbitrarily close to the solvent's critical point, scaling relationships show that the decay of both solvent‐solvent and solute‐solvent correlation functions exhibits the same radial dependence. This functionality is thus solute‐independent, and is determined exclusively by the proximity to the solvent's critical point. The locus along which thermal effects associated with cluster formation are maximized is arbitrarliy close to the solvent's critical isochore as the latter's critical point is approached.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-657
Number of pages13
JournalAIChE Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental Engineering
  • General Chemical Engineering


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