Think Clean Blog

The CO2 Cleaning Story

Posted by Amanda Bunch on Dec 11, 2017 9:24:01 AM
Find me on:

Alternative precision cleaning practices.jpg

Ever wonder how precision cleaning using CO2 got started? How did a natural gas like CO2 get turned into a high tech cleaning process that services Aerospace, Medical, Optical, Microelectronic and Hard Disk Drive markets? Several important factors have influenced and ignited the need for cleanliness in manufacturing such as: concern for the environment, economic competitiveness and technology.



1990's CFC Phase-Out

Alternative Precision Cleaning

According to Mark Skaer in an article entitled The 1990s: The Decade of Refrigerant Chaos - and Change, "The 1990's was termed decade of refrigerant chaos and change. Cooling was a hot and heavy subject debated throughout the entire world this past decade. The original protocol called for a 50% reduction in chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemical production by 1998. The refrigerants used in well over 95% of the world’s systems were to be eventually phased out during the decade of the 90s. Engineers, wholesalers, contractors, and mechanics were all affected. So were system manufacturers, chemical producers, and component manufacturers (theNews,"

hands, the young sprout and our planet Earth.jpegIn the 1990s, manufacturing of industrial and commercial products were significantly impacted by the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) phase-out. During this time, alternative precision cleaning practices (new and old, wet and dry) were widely investigated. Many manufacturing companies were looking for a cooling replacement that did not affect ozone depletion, maximized energy efficiency and had recycling practices. 

New dry cleaning alternatives emerged, including centrifugal liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) degreasing, CO2 snow, CO2 composite spray, laser and plasma. CO2 was considered an alternative method due to its properties that could be used as a cooling/refrigerant agent. However, due to the maturity, widespread availability, and knowledge of aqueous cleaning equipment and processes at the time, industry predominantly changed to wet (aqueous) cleaning practices.

Aqueous cleaning did resolve the immediate cleaning problem however, with it came a vast amount of costs: equipment maintenance, bath monitoring and maintenance, drying processes, deionized water production, wastewater management, rust and corrosion prevention, larger factory space utilization and increased labor burden. Product designs and assembly procedures suitable for CFC cleaning processes required transformation to overcome aqueous cleaning constraints such as water entrapment, drying and potential corrosion. There was also an increased piece part cleaning and drying operations prior to assembly. Therefore, the quick fix proved to be costly and manufacturers were open to looking at other technologies that cleaned as good or better than aqueous processes at lower production costs.

New Dry Cleaning

Using CO2 to clean

CO2 performed in many ways similar to dry CFC solvent spray processes and could clean applications such as optical assemblies, wire bonded assemblies, sensors and data storage devices. These markets were some of the first commercial applications CO2 technology could clean with success and could present cost savings to compete with wet processes. CO2 composite sprays are unlike other snow guns in that the sprays are relatively lean and warm with much smaller fractions of microscopic CO2 particles uniformly dispersed in a heated propellant gas, which creates better surface preparation. In these instances, wet processes could not be considered due to material compatibility, cleaning efficacy or assembly procedure constraints.

As we entered the new century, companies began concerning themselves with sustainability and pressure to reduce manufacturing wastes, improve productivity, lower production costs, achieve zero discharge of pollutants into the environment and maximize water conversion. With all of these factors, a need for a new way of cleaning in manufacturing grew. CO2 Composite QuadSpray.jpgThere was a conflict with the new "green and lean" manufacturing model with wet cleaning practices. Also, water resource availability has supplanted upper atmospheric ozone depletion concerns and is a major issue in many manufacturing sectors.

Between the 1990s to present day the CO2 composite spray "dry" technology developed and evolved into the marketplace just as companies was growing a need for it. What the technology offered now was not just a cleaning solution but also a return on investment that has now become a waste management platform for the manufacturing industry. Precision cleaning with CO2 over time proved significant cost-of-ownership, environmental, and performance benefits compared to conventional aqueous and solvent-based alternatives. Many manufacturing companies are implementing CO2 composite spray cleaning technology within their production operations, attracted by the technologies features, benefits, and integration possibilities.


CO2 Composite Spray Evolution Timeline

The CO2 technology invented, patented and improved by CleanLogix over the last 30 years and has become the foundation and standard for everything precision cleaning and/or machining within the manufacturing industry. The spray quality and efficiency has journeyed from archaic SnowGun and Thermal Ionized Gas (TIG) which produced an inconsistent and sputtering spray, to CO2 Composite Spray with more consistency and adjustable cleaning capacity using between 8-12lbs/hr of CO2, to the latest rendition called Vector Pro CO2 Composite Spray that outputs smaller fractions of microscopic CO2 particles uniformly dispersed in a heated propellant gas, which creates better surface preparation and using between 2-8lbs/hr of CO2. The CO2 technology over the years has improved in value for both cleaning capacity and production costs.

CO2 Technology Timeline.jpg


The Future of CO2 Cooling

"The most common HCFC in use today is HCFC-22 or R-22, a refrigerant still used in existing air conditioners and refrigeration equipment (EPA," Most HCFCs like R-22 will be phased out by 2020. What does this mean for CO2 cleaning? CO2 is a replacement for refrigerant opportunities for CO2 technology uses and applications. The reduction in CFCs has and will only benefit the need for CO2 technology in the coming future applications where cleaning and cooling is needed.

CO2 Contact Freezer_Food Techno Engineering.jpgThe Food Techno Engineering Company is a recent example of how this reduction of R-22 is impacting companies. The Food Techno Engineering Company has opened a research laboratory to test cutting edge transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems to push the development of CO2 technology forward in the food-manufacturing sector. CO2 refrigerant is now considered equivalent to HFCs. FTE has designed a booster unit to recover waste heat and is equipped with an air-cooled gas cooler and water-cooled gas cooler (R744,"



Ready for next steps? Try our free CO2 Consultation.


Topics: Manufacturing Wastes, CO2 Cleaning, CO2 Precision Cleaning, CO2 Immersion, CO2 Composite Spray

CO2 Tech Pioneers

We set the bar

For over the past 30 years, CleanLogix LLC has been the forerunner of CO2 technology exploring all facets and propelling technological evolutions. Our technology portfolio is the only of its kind, offering a breath and depth of CO2 spray, immersion and particle-plasma patents that has in turn created multiple product platforms.


  • Over 30 years experience
  • CO2 eliminates manufacturing wastes
  • CO2 is the solution for your contamination challenges


Subscribe to Think Clean Blog

Recent Posts