Steam distillation is the conventional means by which oils are extracted in the flavour and fragrance industry. A mathematical model for the steam distillation extraction (SDE) of air-dried Ocimum basilicum (basil) leaves has been developed and tested using a small-scale pilot plant. The model predicts the removal of oil components from the plant matrix and subsequent transfer to the steam. It also accounts for the diffusional transfer of components within the leaf and the simultaneous convective transfer into the vapour phase while also respecting the individual components’ volatilities. It has been applied vertically on an element-by-element basis through the bed for a mixture of major and minor components. The proposed SDE model appears to be a good match between predicted values and the experimental data. The model predicts a faster initial extraction rate for components such as α-pinene and α-terpinene, possibly due to preferential extraction of light, volatile components present in larger quantities.

Reference: Maharaj, S. and D. McGaw (2020). “Mathematical Model for the Removal of Essential Oil Constituents during Steam Distillation Extraction.” Processes 8(4): 400

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