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Project name:

Extraction of bioactive compounds from plants by green technology known as extraction with pressurized water.

Status: Idea
Creation date: 25-03-2022

Project objectives:

Summary A Spanish university has developed a new technology aimed at obtaining rockrose extracts with high antioxidant capacity due to their levels of polyphenols and flavonoids, through the use of fluids in conditions below their critical point (subcritical conditions). The type of associations sought are license agreement with any size SME or MNE from pharma, food or chemical sectors.


The Spanish research group is an interdisciplinary group in the areas of knowledge of biochemistry and engineering chemistry. This Spanish research belongs to a medium-sized Spanish university founded in 1994, housing others 76 research groups more.

The university has been very active in several European research and innovation programmes (H2020 and previous FPs, LIFE, Justice, ERASMUS+, Interreg, COST, LLP, IEE, Research Fund for Coal and Steel, D. G. for Competition Policy and Strategy, Science for Peace and Security Programme-OTAN…) with over 50 European projects; with the role of coordinator in 22 projects and over 8.4 M€ overall EU funding received. Currently, this university participates in 26 on-going projects (in 12 of them as coordinator) in 8 different EU programmes with an average of 1.7 M€ of EU funding in the last 4 years.

Rockrose (Cistus ladanifer, the most common species), like other plant species, contains essential oils and bioactive compounds (polyphenols, flavonoids) with high antioxidant capacity that can be used in the production of cosmetics, pharmaceutical preparations and as ingredients in products in human food.
To obtain bioactive compounds from plants, conventional extraction techniques usually require high reaction / extraction times (on the order of hours) and the use of organic solvents (such as ethanol, acetone, etc.). The final product obtained by techniques that use organic solvents requires a purification process to be carried out.

The technology developed by the Spanish university refers to a green technology known as extraction with pressurized liquids in which the liquid used for the extraction is water. The advantage that water offers as a solvent is the zero environmental and human toxicity compared to organic solvents, so it does not pose a risk of contamination during its use, as well as it does not make the purification of the final product necessary, in addition to being a solvent abundant and readily available.

The technique proposed in the present invention is based on the use of a harmless solvent present in large quantities and easily available, such as water, which, by modifying its physical and chemical properties through changes in temperature and/or pressure, acquires similar properties to organic solvents, and can be used for the same purpose, eliminating toxic risks and subsequent treatment of the extracted product.

The installation for obtaining rockrose extracts, consisting of the input of a solvent, mainly water, which is pumped up to a work flow by the pumping system while it reaches the working pressure. This solvent or fluid will pass through a heating device. A bypass divides the line system into two ways: one way allows the fluid to reach the extractor that will house the raw material that contains the compound to be extracted, and the second way diverts the flow of the fluid towards the outlet of the system. The change from one way to another of the bypass is carried out by means of a flow cut-off device such as a valve. The solvent that passes through the extractor and the raw material and contains the compounds of interest, or the solvent that comes from the other bypass line. This procedure allows operation in a semi-continuous or discontinuous regime.

The main potential applications of extraction with pressurized water is to obtain sustainable and high quality bioactive compounds from rockrose that can be used in pharmacy magisterial formulas, cosmetics and ingredients in food products.

The Spanish research team is interested on achieving license agreements for companies or enterprises (in the field of pharma, basic chemistry and food) interested on applying it to manufacture and commercialization processes.

Further development, testing new applications and/or adaptation to specific needs are also offered by the researchers.

Advantages & innovations The main innovations and advantages of this new technology aimed at obtaining rockrose extracts, by green technology known as extraction with pressurized water, are: • The patented process allows working in a semi-continuous and discontinuous regime. • The process incorporates a line called "bypass" that allows the solvent to acquire the optimal extraction conditions prior to its passage to the extractor without being in contact with the raw material, preventing the composition of the raw material from being modified. • Control system based on "friendly" and open programming hardware, reducing the cost of automation. • Water can be used as a solvent or a mixture of water with organic solvents (ethanol). • The biocomposites dissolved in the solvent are separated from it by drying techniques in which recoverable fluids are used and that do not leave residues in the final product. • The heating system can be a clamp-type electric heater, which requires less space than an oven. • Organic solvents are not used to extract compounds from the raw material, reducing total toxicity and causing economic savings in the process. • The use of a "green" solvent such as water does not leave toxic residues in the final product, so it is not necessary to purify it. • Reaction times for extraction to occur are shorter when superheated liquids are used as solvents (hours to minutes). At an industrial level it is an important factor. • By modifying one of the two operating parameters, temperature or pressure, or both, the compound of interest can be extracted.

Stage of development Under development/lab tested

Contact / source: Enterprise Europe Network (