Extraction technology has progressed from backyards to laboratories, allowing for a greater variety and purity of concentrates to be produced, ranging from distillates to high-terpene, full-spectrum extracts, among other things (HTFSE).
What changes have occurred in cannabis extraction technology over the years to bring it to this point? A number of commercial firms have adapted techniques that were originally developed at scientific research institutions. It has been modified and refined from the same methods that were used to investigate the different elements of cannabis in a 1975 paper published in the Journal of Chromatography to make concentrates in large quantities.
As the cannabis industry transitions away from old technologies in cannabis extraction, here’s a look at where the industry is headed, from breakthroughs in chromatography to solvent-based methods of cannabis extraction.
EXTRACTION TECHNOLOGIES ARE GOING BEYOND THEIR LEGACY.
The hydrocarbon extraction method, CO2 extraction method, and ethanol extraction method are the three most important legacy extraction methods. Each of these extraction processes has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which include the initial capital investment required, material safety problems, throughput capability, and ultimate product alternatives.
Because of the increasing demand for clean, ultra-pure extractions of separated cannabinoids, many larger companies are resorting to chromatography. The cannabis industry is well-versed in the use of gas and liquid chromatography for assessing cannabinoids, terpenes, and contaminants; nevertheless, the application of these technologies to extraction is a relatively new development.
As a result of recent advancements in liquid chromatography and a surge in demand for pharmaceutical-grade cannabis-derived substances, numerous top extractors have made the switch to cannabis extraction. The cost of the technology is still prohibitively expensive for the majority of small and medium-sized businesses, but it is gradually becoming more affordable.
In chromatography, reversed-phase chromatography and centrifugal partition chromatography are two of the most significant developments, both of which have contributed to the field’s transition from the testing sector to the extraction sector.
RPC is an abbreviation for Reversed Phase Chromatography.
Hemp extractions that have been subjected to reversed-phase chromatography (RPC) have been shown to contain much lower levels of THC than those that have not been subjected to it. If normal-phase chromatography can distinguish between compounds with differing molecular polarity, reverse-phase chromatography can distinguish between compounds with similar hydrophobicities (like THC and CBD).
The solvents used in reversed-phase chromatography are silica, water, and ethanol, among others. In the current market, Biotage is one firm that offers THC cleanup services using reversed-phase chromatography.
Centrifugal Partition Chromatography (CPC) is a type of chromatography in which the partitions are separated by centrifugal force (CPC)
In this relatively new extraction approach, which is acceptable for pharmaceutical-grade materials, traditional column chromatography methodology is used in conjunction with traditional extraction methods. CPC, on the other hand, does not use a solid phase, but rather two liquid phases: one that is stationary and one that is mobile.
Nature explains it thus way: “When a liquid is spun around in a column, it becomes the stationary phase, which remains immobile while another liquid travels through the column. The two liquid phases do not combine in the same way as oil and water do not mix.”
This is appropriate for cannabis extraction with high precision. According to Nature, “chemists can isolate just about any chemical component from a complicated extract with purity levels of 99 percent or more if they use a large enough column and a diverse range of liquid solvents.” Gilson Applications Laboratory is an example of a company that is actively promoting its CPC technology to the hemp and CBD markets.
EXTRACTION SOLUTIONS WITHOUT THE USE OF CHROMATOGRAPHY
Although chromatography technology has advanced, the equipment’s high cost keeps it out of reach for most entrepreneurs, despite recent advancements. This indicates that there is a rising drive to improve on present extraction technology, which is encouraging.
Precision Extraction Technologies has recently introduced its T-SEP separation process, which the company claims is “significantly more cost-effective than chromatography, is just as effective, and removes over 99 percent of THC.” Precision Extraction Technologies is a California-based company that specializes in extraction and purification of cannabis.
With the help of a particular combination of solvents, the T-SEP process (essentially a THC separation process) creates a liquid-liquid separation in a three-cycle wash, which is then recycled. It is claimed that the T-SEP has a low operating cost ($3.50/liter) and high production (seven liters every 60-minute cycle time), and it is giving several traditional extraction technologies a run for their money.
Sixth Wave’s Affinity purification technology, which was developed to separate cannabinoids from other compounds, is another option. The Affinity system, which makes use of molecularly imprinted polymer beads, or MIPs, and an ethanol solvent wash, catches target cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) significantly more efficiently than any other existing chromatography equipment.
Another advantage of using modern chromatography over traditional chromatography is that it is less expensive. In addition, the Affinity system may operate with crude extracts without affecting the end product or the equipment’s lifespan.
ADVANCES IN CHROMATOGRAPHY AND OTHER DISCIPLINES
Chromatography is quickly becoming a valuable tool for extractors, and not just in the testing and analytics industry any longer. It provides a level of precision that is unmatched in the present crude extraction industry for pharmaceutical applications. Despite recent advancements in chromatography, the technique continues to be expensive and has a limited throughput capacity.
Several novel non-chromatography options are being introduced to fill the void left by small to medium-scale extractors. Despite the fact that these technologies, such as the T-SEP and Affinity, are still dependent on solvents, they have been shown to significantly increase yields, purity, and, most importantly, the return on investment.