What Is Carbon Dioxide Used For?

Carbon dioxide has applications as a refrigerant and coolant in many different industries. It acts as a chemical precursor in the industrial production of urea and methanol and is a common shielding gas for inert gas welding processes. Beverage manufacturers use carbon dioxide to produce carbonated drinks such as soda, beer and sparkling wine. Commercial wine producers also use solid carbon dioxide, also known as dry ice, to cool grapes quickly following a harvest, as this prevents spontaneous fermentation.

Consumer products that require pressurized gas, such as life jackets and paintball markers, often use canisters of liquid carbon dioxide, as it is inexpensive and inflammable and readily transitions from a liquid to a gas under standard temperature and pressure conditions. When put under high temperature and pressure, carbon dioxide enters a supercritical state in which it exhibits the physical properties of a liquid and a gas simultaneously. In this state, carbon dioxide can remove liquids from a solid substance without damaging its underlying structure. Supercritical carbon dioxide sees use in the preparation of small laboratory specimens, the production of microscopic electronic components and the decaffeination of coffee. In addition, some dry cleaners use supercritical carbon dioxide because it has fewer negative environmental effects than other dry cleaning solvents.