You’ve probably first heard of carbon dioxide in a classroom studying elementary chemistry. The colorless, odorless gas is not only the most important element for all plant life on earth, but also one of most ubiquitous.
The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of a tiny portion, about 0.04% to be exact, of the gas and yet CO2 has helped many industries find plenty of ways to use it. But that is getting ahead of us, because it was the beginning that paved the way for CO2 and the success it has brought to applications today.
CO2 in the beginning
Traditionally, the gas was used as the primary component in soft drinks. It provided the carbonation or fizz, which was caused by pressurized CO2 dissolving in the liquid. Since the gas was first noted to be distinct from air in the seventeenth century, we have been able to use it for a number of different industrial applications.
It’s even added to foods as a propellant and acidity regulator. One interesting application of CO2 is Pop Rocks candy – if you’ve ever tried the unique treat that “pops” in your mouth, you’ve tasted candy pressurized with carbon dioxide.
From wine-making to fire extinguishers, the list of applications CO2 can be used for goes on and on. The gas is simply so innocuous and inexpensive that the ways in which it can be used never cease to grow.
The Birth of CO2 Cleaning
The method for cleaning materials using carbon dioxide or CO2 cleaning was first patented in 1947. The patent, filed by inventor William J. Joyce, was assigned to American Optical Company as a “Means for unblocking lenses.”
It describes the use of the cheaply available carbon dioxide as a pressurized refrigerant that can be used to unblock a lens blank from a lens block in the manufacturing process of optical lenses. Basically, the invention used a blast of CO2 for cooling instead of simply putting the block in a refrigerator or under cool running water.
Recently, CO2 has been involved in more procedures and every year more industries are beginning to adopt the cost-effective and efficient method. One particular development was focusing the solid CO2 particles to clean a surface, much like a sandblaster.
CO2 cleaning, or dry ice cleaning, utilizes the CO2 particles as the cleaning mediums, which are propelled at very high speeds. These pellets are much softer and far less dense when compared to other materials used for blast-cleaning. After the CO2 hits the surface it instantly sublimates on impact, leaving behind no trace contaminants.
CO2 Cleaning Applications
Today, the technology is used to clean everything from complex medical devices to plastic car bumpers. The environmentally friendly gas is especially useful for cleaning highly professionalized and complicated instruments that may be too difficult for traditional aqueous methods.
For example on the right, there is a before picture of a lens with dust, dirt, waters pots, etc. CO2 spray cleaning quickly removes the contaminants and leaves a clean lens without damaging the fragile surfaces. Other applications include spraying away micro dust particles (less than 0.1 micron) and finger prints from a semiconductor wafer and cleaning the insides of hard disk drives.
Although there are clear advantages to CO2 cleaning processes, the technology has yet to gain widespread adoption in the manufacturing industry. However the most innovative and forward-thinking companies in the world have already transitioned to this technology because of its obvious benefits to the environment and manufacturing costs.
As CO2 cleaning leaders, we at Cool Clean Technologies will continue to push the boundary to this cutting-edge technology.
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