What are Solvents?
Solvents are substances, usually liquids, that have the capacity to dissolve other substances. There are three main classes of solvents: hydrocarbon solvents (which include a carbon chain), oxygenated solvents (which are created when molecules containing alkenes undergo reactions), and halogenated solvents (which include halogens such as bromine or chlorine).
Solvents are vital ingredients in medicines, cleaning solutions, cosmetics, paints, and a wide variety of other products. Considering their importance in so many fields, scientists have begun to research solvents that may be less harmful to the environment and people, such as alternative solvents and green solvents. But what is the difference between these two types of solvents? Read on to find out.
Green solvents are usually obtained from agricultural wastes. One of the most common green solvents is ethyl lactate, which comes from processing corn. Some of ethyl lactate’s benefits include:
- High solvency
- Completely biodegradable
- High boiling point
- Low vapor pressure
All of these features make ethyl lactate one of the most attractive green solvents for a number of industries.
However, not all green solvents come from agricultural byproducts: one often overlooked green solvent is water. Water is sometimes called the universal solvent, and when utilized in extraction processes, it provides a number of benefits. Water is:
- Extremely inexpensive
- Not hazardous to use
- Not harmful to the environment
The main element that both ethyl lactate and water possess, and the one that characterizes all green solvents, is that they have a smaller impact on the environment than traditional solvents.
Alternative solvents are similar to green solvents, but they encompass a wider range of substances. They do not only include environmentally friendly solvents- their performance, health impact on humans, cost, and other elements that may make them more advantageous than traditional solvents are also considered. Some examples of alternative solvents include:
- Green solvents obtained from agricultural processing (like ethyl lactate)
These are just a few examples of the many alternative solvents on the market. Which one is best for your needs will depend on what you’re looking to minimize the most: environmental impact, cost, safety, or any number of other factors.
Want to Learn More?
Are you interested in learning more about green solvents, alternative solvents, or just solvents in general? At Extraction Grade Solvents, our team of chemists will be happy to help you find the best solvent for your extraction needs. Please contact us here!