This first “Tech Innovations” column examines the development of various extraction technologies. Extracting from botanicals is an age-old process that dates back hundreds of years, including in processing for cannabis. But now there is more interest in what extractions can do, how they can be accomplished, and what new processes or equipment can be brought to bear. This column focuses on defining extractions, looks at new technologies, including goals and objectives, what can be done with artificial intelligence, and more. We also take a look at other extraction products, techniques, and developments as discussed with various extraction experts who are working both in laboratories and with extraction equipment manufacturers throughout the country.
The Extractor’s Focus Today
The focus recently for extractors has been on terpenes. “There are so many different kinds of extraction processes, and what you collect out the other end might have terpenes in there or might not, depending on what extraction process you are using,” said Wise. “You can isolate the terpenes before you even extract the cannabinoids.”
Why are extractors focusing more on terpenes—the flavor and aroma of the cannabis product? “We are focusing on it more because consumers want more interesting terpene profiles because it really does give you the different effect of the different strains,” said Wise. “If you are making concentrates and you want to claim it’s Blue Dream, you need to have some Blue Dream terpenes in there or otherwise it’s just a bunch of THC in there and that could come from any strain.”
The focus is actually more about the entourage effect (4) explained Wise. “I think it’s that people are figuring out that the entourage effect is actually a scientific thing and not just a bunch of a stoners pretending it is a placebo effect,” she said. “If you just isolate THC you don’t get very high, it doesn’t last long and it’s not interesting. So we need to be making formulations of concentrates that are beyond just cannabinoids. There are a number of other molecules that are also important in the entourage effect.”
There are other, perhaps more exotic methods being investigated now, such as ultrasound assisted extraction (5), a more efficient extraction tool that enhances yield; and a hybrid approach of using ultrasound assisted extraction with microwave-assisted extraction (6) for fast, efficient extractions that can bring additive or synergistic effects.
Another newer extraction technology is hydrodynamic extraction, as demonstrated by iaso (7) in 2018, which is a process that converts the cannabis plant material into a cannabis nano-emulsion using hydrodynamic force and ultra-sonification to break the cell walls of the plant material and release them into the aqueous phase.
This also enhances the bio-availability of the extract. The next step is a cold extraction process using temperature generated during the hydrodynamic process for pulling out the active total cannabinoids from the clear emulsion into the solvent phase.
“The key is hybrids,” said MacKay. “Whether you have it go through a process where you break up the trichome material with microwave, such as in microwave-assisted extraction, or you break it open with ultrasound. You can do it through pulsed electric fields (8). People are starting to understand that if they merge these together, a separation and an extraction, then they can utilize what is already out there.”
Newer ideas being explored involve artificial intelligence (AI), which helps bring more data analytics into the extraction process.
- https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/ultrasound-extraction (see article 4.4 on this page).
About the Columnist
David Hodes has written for many cannabis publications, and organized or moderated sessions at national and international cannabis trade shows. He was voted the 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access, the world’s largest medical cannabis advocacy organization.
How to Cite this Article
D. Hodes, Cannabis Science and Technology 3(4), 14–27 (2020).