Undergraduate Research: Sustainable Essential Oil Extraction
For my undergraduate research, I developed a method for a "greener" and more sustainable method for the extraction of peppermint essential oil. This method can be applied to any plant or material for essential oil extraction, and can be used in a variety of applications.
Here's a short abstract of my work:
Essential oils have skyrocketed in popularity in the last decade and the demand is higher than ever. Peppermint has been utilized for centuries for its medicinal and aromatic properties. Peppermint essential oil is widely used in various industries as flavoring and fragrance, as well as a popular ingredient in natural remedies, aromatherapy, and pharmaceuticals. Essential oil extraction methods used in industry, steam distillation and solvent extraction, can damage the quality of the product and often involve processes that use a lot of energy or solvents that are harmful to people and the environment.
Supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) offers a great alternative to conventional extraction methods for essential oils. In this extraction method, carbon dioxide is used instead of harmful solvents. There is such a small amount of carbon dioxide used in this method that it is not of concern for releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and on an industrial scale, the carbon dioxide can be recycled and used again in the process.
In my findings, I concluded that supercritical fluid extraction is a greener method of essential oil extraction, and it does not leave any harmful solvents behind in the final product. There is also no chemical waste disposal needed. It also extracted a higher quality essential oil than the extraction methods used in industry. This can be applied to ANY plant or material that contains an essential oil.
I was also able to present my research at the American Chemical Society 2022 Spring Conference held in San Diego, California. Check out a picture of my poster below!
Here are some pictures from my time in the lab working on my essential oil research!