The properties of a new generation of fluorocarbon solvents have been applied to the extraction of plant materials. The core of the solvent is 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane, better known to non-chemists as hydrofluorocarbon-134a or HFC-134. This product was developed as a replacement for the chlorofluorocarbons that created the aerosal industry and were essential to the spread of low-cost and portable refrigeration. When these propellants and refrigerants were banned because of their ozone-depleting effects, the hunt for replacements resulted in the development of HFC-134a as the best available product. It is now produced by several major chemical companies throughout the world.
Advanced Phytonics Limited, a Manchester, England-based company, has recently filed international patents collectively known as “the Phytonics process” protecting novel procedures using solvents based on HFC-134a. Special blends of HFC-134a and modifying solvents are being produced by Imperial Chemical Industries in Cheshire, England, to meet the particular requirements of tbe Phytonics process.
In Britain, the UK Minister of Agriculture recently approved the Phytonics process for the production of natural food flavor extracts. Approval from the Scientific Committee for Foods of the European Union is expected soon.