Leaching and extraction both refer to the process of removing one compound from another. The only key difference between these two terms is that leaching is a form of extraction, rather than a completely separate process.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth explanation, then read on.
What Is Chemical Extraction?
Extraction refers to the removal of one or more substances from their original material. The science of extraction has been around for millennia, ranging from something as simple as grinding and pressing a product to remove its oil, to the multi-step processes seen in the modern day. Most manufacturers use chemical solvents to assist in the process, agitating and heating the fluid to achieve extraction.
Here are some examples of everyday extractions you’re probably familiar with:
- Using hot water to extract caffeine and other desirable compounds from coffee grounds
- Steeping teabags in hot water
- Using ethanol to remove cannabidiol (CBD) from cannabis sativa plants for use as an additive in lotions, beauty products, soaps, etc.
While there are a variety of extraction methods, most can be placed under one of these categories:
- Liquid-Liquid Extraction = The process of pulling a compound from a liquid using another liquid.
- Liquid-Solid Extraction = The process of pulling a compound from a solid using a liquid.
- Acid-Base Extraction = The process of purifying acids from bases through a form of liquid-liquid extraction.
What Is Leaching?
Leaching is a form of liquid-solid extraction where a solvent (a liquid chemical compound) extracts a substance from a solid material. It is likely that you engage in leaching daily, whether when brewing coffee or making a hot cup of tea.
In these instances, hot water is used as a solvent to extract compounds from the coffee grounds or tea leaves. However, in industrial settings, more potent solvents, such as ethanol, are used when producing edible oils. During the process of metal leaching, potassium cyanide is used.
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