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Extraction of anthocyanins from black wolfberry using Supercritical CO2 Extraction Process

co2 essential oil extraction equipment

The world of natural compounds continues to astound us with its numerous health benefits. One such compound, anthocyanins, found in black wolfberry (Lycium ruthenicum Murr.), has gained significant attention for its potential health-promoting properties. Extracting anthocyanins from black wolfberry can be a challenging task due to the delicate nature of these compounds. However, the supercritical CO2 extraction process offers a promising solution.

Anthocyanins are a class of flavonoids known for their vibrant red, purple, or blue pigmentation in fruits, vegetables, and other plants. They are potent antioxidants that have been linked to various health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory effects, and potential anticancer properties.

The Supercritical CO2 Extraction Process

Black wolfberries are a rich source of anthocyanins. How can anthocyanins be effectively extracted from these berries without affecting their quality.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is an advanced technique that utilizes carbon dioxide in a state where it exhibits both liquid and gas properties. This method has gained popularity in recent years for its ability to extract delicate compounds like anthocyanins while preserving their integrity.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction Process Involves three Key Steps

Supercritical CO2 extraction Process involves three key steps: extraction, separation, and condensation. In the extraction phase, supercritical CO2 is passed through the raw material, effectively dissolving the desired compounds. The supercritical CO2 is then separated from the extract, leaving behind the purified anthocyanins. Finally, the CO2 is condensed back into a liquid state and can be recycled, making this process environmentally friendly.


The extraction phase is the first step in supercritical CO2 extraction, and it is where the process begins. In this step, supercritical carbon dioxide is used as the solvent to extract the target compounds from the raw material. Supercritical carbon dioxide is a unique state of CO2 achieved under specific temperature and pressure conditions. It behaves as both a gas and a liquid, making it an excellent solvent for extracting a wide range of compounds.

  • Preparation: Before extraction, the raw material containing the target compounds (in your case, anthocyanins from black wolfberry) must be properly prepared. This often involves grinding or breaking down the material into smaller particles to increase the surface area for extraction.
  • The supercritical CO2 is introduced into the extraction vessel, where it comes into contact with the prepared raw material. It then penetrates the material and starts dissolving the target compounds. The choice of temperature and pressure in this phase is crucial, as it determines the solubility of the specific compounds you want to extract. For anthocyanins, the conditions must be set to effectively dissolve these pigments.
  • Dissolution: As the supercritical CO2 flows through the raw material, it dissolves the anthocyanins, carrying them away from the solid material into the supercritical CO2 as a solution. This phase can be adjusted to ensure maximum extraction efficiency while minimizing the extraction of unwanted compounds.


After the extraction phase, the supercritical CO2 carrying the dissolved compounds, including the anthocyanins, needs to be separated from the raw material. This separation step is crucial for isolating the desired compounds and ensuring purity.

  • Extraction Vessel: The supercritical CO2, along with the dissolved compounds, is directed into a separate vessel or chamber where the separation process takes place. Here, the pressure and temperature conditions are altered to cause the supercritical CO2 to revert to its gaseous state.
  • Separation of Compounds: As the pressure decreases, the supercritical CO2 loses its solvating power, causing the dissolved compounds to precipitate out of the CO2 in their concentrated form. In this case, anthocyanins from the black wolfberry are now separated from the CO2.
  • Collection: The separated compounds are collected in a separate container. Depending on the specific application, additional refining steps may be necessary to obtain a pure extract of anthocyanins.


The last phase of supercritical CO2 extraction is the condensation step. In this step, the carbon dioxide is converted back into its liquid form and is ready to be recycled for further use.

  • Condensation Equipment: The supercritical CO2, which is now in its gaseous state and free of extracted compounds, is routed to a condensation chamber or equipment. Here, the pressure and temperature are adjusted to bring the CO2 back to its liquid state.
  • Recycling: Once condensed, the liquid CO2 can be recycled and reintroduced into the extraction process. This recycling aspect of the process makes supercritical CO2 extraction environmentally friendly, as it minimizes waste and chemical residues.

Top 4 Advantages Of Supercritical CO2 Extraction

The use of supercritical CO2 for extracting anthocyanins from black wolfberry offers numerous benefits:

  1. Enhanced Selectivity : Supercritical CO2 has high selectivity, meaning it targets the desired compounds without extracting unwanted substances. This results in a more concentrated and pure anthocyanin extract.
  2. Minimal Thermal Degradation : Unlike traditional extraction methods that use heat, supercritical CO2 extraction operates at lower temperatures. This prevents thermal degradation of anthocyanins, ensuring their quality and potency.
  3. Eco-Friendly : The process uses carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas, and is considered environmentally friendly, with no harmful chemical residues left behind.
  4. Customizable : Supercritical CO2 extraction allows for precise control of temperature and pressure, making it easy to adjust the extraction conditions for optimal results.

Extracting Anthocyanins from Black Wolfberry

To harness the potential of black wolfberry anthocyanins using supercritical CO2 extraction, one must follow a well-defined process:

  1. Preparing the Raw Material : Start by obtaining fresh black wolfberries and ensuring they are free of contaminants. Properly cleaning and drying the berries is essential to prevent impurities in the extract.
  2. Extraction Parameters : Set the supercritical CO2 extraction parameters, including temperature and pressure, according to the specific requirements of anthocyanin extraction.

Results and Applications Of Supercritical CO2 Extraction

The use of supercritical CO2 extraction to obtain anthocyanins from black wolfberry yields a high-quality extract with numerous potential applications:

  • Nutraceuticals : The anthocyanin-rich extract can be used in the production of nutraceuticals, providing health-conscious consumers with the benefits of these potent antioxidants.
  • Food and Beverage Industry : Anthocyanin extracts can be used as natural food colorants and preservatives, enhancing the visual appeal and shelf life of various products.
  • Cosmetics : The vibrant colors and antioxidant properties of anthocyanins make them a valuable addition to cosmetics and skincare products.


Supercritical CO2 extraction Process is a powerful and environmentally friendly method for extracting anthocyanins from black wolfberry. With its numerous advantages, this technique opens up a world of possibilities for utilizing these potent antioxidants in various industries. As we continue to uncover the potential benefits of anthocyanins, the supercritical CO2 extraction process provides a key to unlock their full potential.