A supercritical fluid, or a SCF, is considered any substance at a temperature and pressure that is above critical points. At this point, the gas and distinct liquid phases do not exist. The fluid can effuse through solid (like gas). It is then able to dissolve materials such as a liquid. It is essential to keep in mind that close to the critical point, a small change in temperature or pressure results in rather significant changes in density. This allows many properties of the supercritical fluid to be fine-tuned.
Fluids are also considered supercritical even when the fluid’s temperature is below critical point value. In cases like these, the liquid will be highly compressed. The pressure is mandatory for liquids to remain above a critical value.
A supercritical fluid occurs naturally in the atmosphere on Saturn and Jupiter (the gas giants). The fluid most likely, although not confirmed, also exist on the ice giants (Neptune and Uranus). The same fluids are also found in a wide range of laboratory and industrial processes. Typically, a supercritical fluid is used instead of organic solvents. The two most used supercritical fluids are water and carbon dioxide. Both fluids are used for power generation and decaffeination. For these processes, supercritical fluid heaters are necessary.
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