By John A. MacKay, Ph.D.
There are many ways to extract and separate the compounds that the cannabis plant produces during its life cycle. At Waters Corporation people assumed that Waters instruments focused solely on supercritical fluid (SCF) technology. The manufacturing facilities that were appropriate for SCF were the main customers, however the analytical tools that support the process analytics were for all forms of solvent and solvent-less processes. Chromatographic principles are evident in extraction and vice versa.
All extraction technologies and methods to use those technologies are not isolated. Many people focus on just one facet: butane versus carbon dioxide versus ethanol versus whatever your favorite mode is here. Understanding how the extraction technologies can co-exist is the basis of hyphenated technologies. Think of the combination of mass spectrometry and chromatography. Those are hyphenated combination of what was two separate analytical testing instruments.
As you think about this in cannabis extraction technologies, you have the same possibilities of combining technologies to select the ingredients of extracted compounds for a specific – and possibly unique – products for patients.
It was during my study of all the hyphenated technologies that have been used for a minimum of 40 years (microwave, acoustic and mixed solvents) that I first became aware of the cavitation technology. One of my main interests has always been studying the batch, continuous batch and truly continuous processes.
I wanted to develop the Willy Wonka process for cannabis industry. Choose the formulation and the instrument(s) chooses the process to provide the ingredients for the formulation. Sort of like the modern vending machine choosing and individual bottle of soda compared to be able to choose unique mixtures available in fast food chain soda machines today.
After retiring from Waters Corporation in March, 2017 and. starting my own consulting and research company, I have had the freedom to explore all technologies and processes. There are at least five different processes in my labs today. Bringing what has been separate steps of plant drying, trimming, grinding, loading of extraction instrument, collecting the extracts, and disposing of the biomass. This is followed by all of the post extraction processes such as degumming, and the cleanup of components that might have been co-extracted, etc.
There are many technologies that I have found around the world that provide the ability to give energy pulses to break open the cell wall of the trichomes. This makes the contents of the trichome more readily available for extraction and subsequent transfer to collection vessels.
There are many technologies readily available that help with each step. Examples such as ultrasonic assisted extraction (UAE), microwave assisted extraction (MAE) , pulsed electric field and cavitation assisted are all well documented in peer reviewed science journals. Each of these provide a unique extraction process for the ingredients needed for a product. Think of it like the waves on a shore line. Some waves can be gentle and your kids can build sand castles. However, if the waves have more energy in addition to the tide, the water moves further up the shore line and the kid’s creations will go back into the water. The water’s power can build up waves for surfing, but if these waves crash on the shoreline, they can’t be enjoyed.
Hurricanes bring greater wave penetration on the shoreline. In the same way, the power of the waves can affect the breaking of the single cell wall of trichomes while leaving the majority of the plant cell walls intact. More power will break open the other components to create the raw materials for biofuel, construction materials, and clothing.
This technology allows one way of exploring using all the cannabis plant not just the cannabinoids. This does not mean they are the only way. I use combination of extraction technologies to have the complex ingredients needed. Combination of ethanol and carbon dioxide is the easiest example, but certainly not the only one.
In Case You Missed It: Other articles contributed by Dr. MacKay