short path distillation cbdDecember 15, 2021
Distillation is a method for separating compounds based on their unique physical properties, like melting point, boiling point, crystallization, etc. One of the most common forms of distillation is by using boiling points. When the compounds’ molecules’ are heat-sensitive, processors use Short-Path Distillation to separate them from one another.
Short path distillation, also referred to as fractional distillation, produces high-quality cannabis distillate, though the process is limited in both scalability and production capacity. During the short-path process, a boiling flask is used to heat crude oil and the oil is agitated with a magnetic stirrer. The compounds are separated in the oil using heat until they transform into vapor. The vaporized compounds rise up and then are chilled back to a liquid using a condensing coil.
Cannabis oil compounds are separated into 3 different “fractions” (main, heads, tails), collected at the different temperature points in the distillation process. As the temperature rises, a new compound fraction is evaporated, re-condensed and then goes into a receiving flask.
Short Path Distillation.
When distillation is used as a purification process for CBD and THC oils, it requires very closely controlled temperatures, pressure levels and material input volume, so that the product is processed in a way that results in the highest possible purity and doesn’t damage or degrade the cannabinoids being collected.
It is worth explaining, because it is often confused, that the technique of wiped film distillation is a form of short-path distillation. Sometimes it is also referred to as “thin film” or even “rolled film” distillation. This technique is simple, effective and great for larger scale operations with high throughput needs. The difference is the continuous feed aspect of wiped film.
Main Fraction: contains the THC and CBD cannabinoids Heads Fraction: contains the terpenes and other high volatiles Tails Fraction: contains other high boiling point cannabinoids.
Crude oil is added to a heated cylinder on a rotation plate, while “wipers” create a thin film on the surface of the heated evaporator. This film is heated to a specific temperature to create a vapor. The vapor is then cooled and collected on a condenser coil and the desired compound has been “distilled.”
So why should a marijuana or hemp processor choose short-path distillation?
The future of the cannabis business is limitless. The ability to process cannabis plant material into distillates and other purified cannabis components is an excellent way to grow your hemp or marijuana operation with product diversification. If you are looking to make a variety of products like edibles, vape cartridges, oils, lotions or pills, you will need a distillation system.
Wiped Film Distillation.
The operator can optimize the material feed rate, the vacuum level and the temperature during wiped film distillation, in order to yield the specific desired distillate composition. The major advantages of wiped-film distillation are high productivity, ability to run in continuous mode, and easy-to-use controls allowing for a repeatable process.
Marijuana and hemp processors take advantage of short-path distillation’s ability to separate compounds in order to purify and isolate cannabinoids in a cannabis extract. The result is a high-purity, superior quality concentrate that can be sold on its own or further processed into a variety of end products.
Short-path distillation requires an experienced laboratory team. Since it’s somewhat affordable, though limited in scale and production volume, it can become a cost-effective entry point into the hemp and marijuana extraction industry.
As the global leader in cannabis extraction equipment, we’re experts in extraction and distillation technology. We are a distributor of short path and wiped film distillation systems and also offer on-site training programs for our clients using a mixture of classroom and hands-on instruction.
Getting Started With Short Path Distillation.
For the cannabis industry, extraction involves the collection of oils from the plant material. Whereas distillation describes the process of purifying the extracted oil into desired constituents which can be incorporated into marketable goods.
In the case of cannabis oil distillation, short-path distillation signifies an economical solution for separating terpenoids, cannabinoids, and flavoring chemicals, and both organic and inorganic contaminants. This technique does not require extra solvents to catalyze the distillation process and can offer high evaporation rates for higher levels of distillate consolidation with good degrees of automation.
Due to the expensive nature of the materials involved with cannabis, the short-path distillation technique contributes to the profitability of the processing operation.
Vacuum conditions are used to draw vapors via the feed into the condensing unit, where the separated gas-phase compartments of the liquid solution are cooled and changed back into liquids. This distillate material is divided into distinct flasks according to their weight, enabling chemists to easily combine multiple desirable elements from a single sample.
Short-path distillation is a compact purification technique that is suitable for laboratory applications where minimal instrumentation footprint is vital. This low-pressure method uses numerous flasks and, comparatively, brief extraction feeds to separate condensate media across paths of just a few centimeters. Conventional distillation techniques frequently require much larger apparatus to realize the requisite purity levels for application-specific requirements. Short-path distillation meanwhile can realize distillate purity levels of up to 99% using many components in a smaller working space.
What is the difference between extraction and distillation?
Cannabidiol and THC are just two of the plant’s more than 100 cannabinoids. THC is psychoactive, and CBD may or may not be, which is a matter of debate. THC can increase anxiety; it is not clear what effect CBD is having, if any, in reducing it. THC can lead to addiction and cravings; CBD is being studied to help those in recovery.
The process when using THC is often called fractional short path distillation. In the distillation process, you can extract the hundreds of cannabis compounds out individually because each compound has a different boiling point. After the extraction is complete you can add together the known compounds you want to make the best product for the customer.
Short-path distillation separates components from the extracted oil by capitalizing on the differing chemical characteristics of the constituent compounds. The solubility and vapor pressure of compounds in a mixture (among other characteristics) affect the evaporation step during distillation. By selectively targeting these physical properties of the materials involved, the experimental conditions for collecting predictable and reproducible constituents can be identified.
The short- path distillation is a crucial step to get the end product, CBD oil without terpenoids, flavonoids, and contaminates (by-products like residual solvents and pesticides can be removed).
In a short-path distillation arrangement, a liquid solution or emulsion is suspended in an evaporating flask that is connected via a short feed to a condenser or chilling unit. The evaporating flask is positioned in a heating mantle that slowly increases the temperature of the solution to pre-defined boiling points, triggering distinct compartments of the solution to evaporate.
The CBD industry is flourishing, conservatively projected to hit $16 billion in the United States by 2025. Already, the plant extract is being added to cheeseburgers, toothpicks and breath sprays. More than 60 percent of CBD users have taken it for anxiety, according to a survey of 5,000 people, conducted by the Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm. Chronic pain, insomnia and depression follow behind. Kim Kardashian West, for example, turned to the product when “freaking out” over the birth of her fourth baby. The professional golfer Bubba Watson drifts off to sleep with it. And Martha Stewart’s French bulldog partakes, too.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the lesser-known child of the cannabis sativa plant; its more famous sibling, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in pot that catapults users’ “high.” With roots in Central Asia, the plant is believed to have been first used medicinally — or for rituals — around 750 B.C., though there are other estimates too.
The crucial aspect of distillation purification is temperature. Other physical chemistry variables contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency, but temperature is critical to achieving a high yield of desired products. Vacuum is often used to enhance the process by allowing distillation at lower temperatures thereby reducing the potential of altering the chemical makeup of the distillates.
Distillation and extraction are extremely similar as they are both separating compounds. The difference is: Distillation is separating compounds based on boiling points. Extraction is separating compounds based on solubility in the extraction solvent.
This is done primarily through measuring the vapor temperature and/or noticing a color change. The distillation is completely reliant on temperature.