Cannabis Extraction and Temperature Control Systems

Temperature Control Systems in Action: Cannabis Extraction

Cannabis contains many pharmacologically active substances and is a crop that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Efficient procedures for extracting and isolating the active ingredients from the cannabis plant are becoming more vital, as cannabis has become more crucial in medicine in recent years.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Roxana Gonzalez

Use of Cannabis Products

The psychoactive substance THC is one of the reasons cannabis has long been known. It is employed in medicine and pain therapy, among others. However, in recent years, other cannabinoids have moved into the spotlight of science.

Currently, they are being examined intensively and with surprising results for their pharmacological effects. For a number of acute and chronic conditions, some are already thought to be the beacon of hope. The non-psychoactive CBD, in particular, has a vast spectrum of activity with excellent tolerability.

Furthermore, in the cosmetics industry, the fats, terpenes and waxes which are contained in cannabis are increasingly utilized as an admixture. So in the future, the market for cannabis extracts will continue to grow, particularly as more countries legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

Standard Principles in Cannabis Extraction

When creating cannabis products, the cannabinoids and other ingredients are first extracted from the leaves and flowers of certified hemp plants by utilizing numerous solvents and procedures.

The aim is to acquire the most complete gentle extraction of all ingredients. The solvent has to be separated from the extract without residue at the end of the process, regardless of the procedure employed.

The solvents that are utilized are mainly ethanol and carbon dioxide, but liquefied low molecular weight hydrocarbons like propane or butane are also employed. Compliance with specific, partly changing pressure and temperature windows plays a key role in the cannabis extraction procedures.

For the extraction, it has to be either vaporized by heating or liquefied by cooling or pressure or at the end of the process. This process is dependent on the physical state of the solvent under standard conditions.

The sophisticated temperature management of the processing plants ensures an efficient recovery of the solvents employed and a high extraction yield.

Example CO2 Extraction

The so-called supercritical carbon dioxide extraction is a good example of the principles mentioned. It is frequently utilized in cannabis extract manufacture. Supercritical CO2 happens when temperature and pressure are brought above the critical point, which is at a pressure of greater than 73.75 bar and at a temperature above 30.98°C.

The CO2 is as dense as a fluid in this state, but it possesses the same viscosity as a gas. This means that the dissolving properties are greatly enhanced. The pressure is lowered in the course of the extraction process, whereby the CO volatilizes and releases the dissolved substances.

The CO2 systems are able to acquire extracts with a full terpene profile due to the pressure and temperature optimization. Sophisticated extractors can even enable fractionation and so, the isolation of specific compounds.

In order to aid the removal of CO2 from the extract, air heaters in the evaporator supply heating. Integrated cooling, which then returns the gas to a liquid state, facilitates the recycling of CO2.

For the efficient and smooth operation of the process, accurate, consistent temperature control of all compounds and an adjustment of the cooling and heating capacity to variable conditions like the specific plant material and the processed amount are vital.

Further Processing of Cannabis Extracts

A full-spectrum crude oil is available at the end of the extraction process after the removal of the solvent. This, in addition to the cannabinoids, also contains plant waxes, terpenes, lipids and other plant substances like chlorophyll.

They are activated by a process called decarboxylation: They are heated to a well-defined temperature over a set period of time. This is because the cannabinoids are present in the plant and so also in crude oil as carboxylic acids (CBDa, THCa, etc.), which exhibit lower therapeutic effectiveness.

A number of procedures are available, with higher temperatures decreasing the reaction time. The decarboxylation enhances the bioavailability of cannabinoids, so the body is able to process the active ingredients better.

Recent studies demonstrate that CBDa also has pharmacologically active properties, which have to be investigated more thoroughly in the next few years. Crude oil and decarboxylated crude oils are then further purified using distillation or filtration and partially separated into individual fractions.

For example, a refining process known as ‘winterization’ is employed for the separation of terpenes and waxes from the oil and the concentration of the active ingredients: waxes crystallize out and may be separated by filtration when the crude oil is mixed with alcohol and cooled down. Whether distillation, decarboxylation, or winterization, temperature control also plays a key role in crude oil’s further processing.

Conclusion

The sale of cannabis products is growing and needs low-maintenance, efficient extraction and refining processes. Currently, there are various end products available on the market, from the crystalline or the dissolved pure substance to the raw extract in different consistencies.

The multiplicity of processing techniques demonstrates the breadth of the possible administration forms. These need sophisticated temperature management, which is perfectly adapted to the respective needs.

The product range from Julabo GmbH provides all of the equipment required to build up the different temperature zones within the complete process. The individual temperature control systems are easy to handle, highly variable and have an operating system designed down to the last detail.

The advantage of this is that all variables can be precisely and easily altered to a user's requirements. The optimum parameters for the raw material and the desired end product can be determined by the user.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by JULABO GMBH.

For more information on this source, please visit JULABO GMBH.

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