This work aims to model the extraction process of lycopene from tomato peels using a conventional or a "green" solvent, which could be more environment-friendly, and its subsequent encapsulation. The Aspen Plus® software is used to this end. Different cases considering alternative extracting solvents, as well as the recycling of recovered solvent streams and water are evaluated and compared. The raw materials to be considered in an inventory analysis are tomato peels from local industries, solvents, drying agents and soft capsules. Based on literature data and using MS Excel® worksheets, the process mass and energy balances are set up and, hence, the extraction yield is evaluated, while the solvent recovery stage is simulated and optimized in Aspen Plus®. The economic potential of these cases is calculated by considering the cost of utilities, product and by-product sales, wastewater treatment, and raw material costs.
Results show that tomato peels can be appealing for lycopene extraction and valorization. The productivity of lycopene-containing tablets is appreciably large: 12000 pz/h of lycopene-containing tablets after extraction with ethyl acetate and 3500 pz/h in the case of limonene were obtained. Moreover, the predicted gross profit is reasonably attractive, with 39 M€/year for the conventional process and 11 M€/year for the "green" alternative.