Cannabis is a rapidly emerging market, with the technologies traditionally utilized being optimized or outright displaced in favor of better solutions. This metamorphosis is still in its early days and much research and development need to take place.
However, what may be a surprise to some is where significant innovation is taking place; it’s not only in the greenhouses, but the processing rooms downstream of grow rooms. The processing of the cannabis produced is a budding niche, in this industry, specifically the production of extracts that can be used in consumables.
Extracts offer an alternative to smoking that comes in a concentrated form that makes it easier to monitor dosing. Due to the numerous benefits associated with this delivery method, especially in medical applications, consumables are rapidly gaining popularity. Thus, the race is on to optimize the production of cannabis extracts.
There are two primary methods of cannabis oil extraction, they are; supercritical carbon dioxide extraction and ethanol extraction. Each one of these methods has its benefits and shortcomings. They both, however, are competing to be the most prominent method of extraction in the industry because both offer a green solution that has demonstrated the potential of greater than 90% terpene and cannabinoid extraction efficiency.
Unfortunately, reaching this extraction efficiency is no guarantee for either of these methods as the results are dependent on a substantial number of interconnected factors. One of these is the average particle diameter of the feed biomass.
By changing the average particle size of the feed biomass, you are altering the available surface area for the extraction to occur. This in turn directly influences the mass transfer kinetics of the system. The result: a threefold benefit to be realized.
First, if you are using supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, less severe conditions and, for both methods, shorting operating times can be used leading to savings in the amount of energy per gram of product. Two, for both methods, shorter residency times means more processing capability for the same set-up. Finally, in the case of supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, the less severe operating conditions means higher selectivity of the extracts, resulting in less unwanted high melting point contaminants to be removed by the winterization process.
Put simply this means less intense purification is required to achieve the desired product. For ethanol extraction, despite the conditions not necessarily changing, higher yields at any operating condition can be expected. This results in lower energy consumption per unit product as well.
The goal of the research Ayurcann conducted was to find the optimal average particle diameter of feed stock that achieves the benefits mentioned above, while still balancing the resources required upstream in the process to reduce the particle size.
Advances in technology cannot be utilized to their maximum without first gaining an in-depth understanding of the theory behind the mechanisms driving them, that leads to the manipulation of operation variables. None of this is achieved without empirical data correlating the effects of manipulating these parameters in conjunction.
This data can only be gained through rigorous testing and numerous trials. Cannabis is an underdeveloped industry, that is in desperate need of such experimentation to optimize the magnitude of new manufacturing methods becoming available with the new technology coming into the industry. These trials will help to elucidate the best operating practices around cannabis oil extraction.