What Are Rotovaps and How Can They be Used?

What are rotovaps

A rotary evaporator - or as people in the business like to call it, the rotovap - is a tool used in the extraction process to create high-quality crude oil. 

So, what is a rotovap and how are a range of producers using it in their production process? We aim to answer all of your rotovap questions right here in this blog. We hope it helps your business improve its extraction processes!

What is a rotovap?

A rotary evaporator is a device used in chemical laboratories for the efficient and gentle removal of solvents from samples by evaporation. A rotovap acts like a filter to separate the unwanted components in the extract as a final step to crude oil. 

The rotovap is a simple concept with a lot of moving parts. The material needs to be heated to the point of evaporation and then cooled and condensed. The process is like distillation but even more precise. 

Since the rotovap removes the solvent under a vacuum, the temperature needed to evaporate the material can be lower, meaning the material is less likely to be overheated and the system can run at cooler temperatures. 

The benefit to using a rotovap over a simple distillation system is that the rotation of the evaporating flask, combined with a heated water bath, increases the surface area of the product. This makes the distillation go faster and keeps the mixture evenly mixed and heated, to promote a stable and even evaporation.

Who is using rotovaps?

There are many other industrial applications for the rotovap other than cannabis and hemp extraction including:

Molecular gastronomy - Molecular gastronomy is a scientific discipline that focuses on physical and chemical transitions that happen during cooking. Rotovaps are used to prepare distillates and extracts in the kitchen that have the purest flavors.

Biofuel extractions - Rotovaps are used for extractions in biofuel research to purify biomass components which are useful for energy generation. Rotovaps are used because they can be used to separate volatile components, which most biofuels contain.

Alcohol industry - Rotovaps are used in the distilling of your favorite spirits and used to introduce flavor into alcoholic drinks. It can also be used to extract flavors from herbs and fruit to add to cocktails and alcoholic beverages.

Rotovaps in cannabis and hemp extraction

Rotovaps are used mainly in the winterization process. When we think about the steps to winterization, we see the material has been chilled and the unwanted fats, waxes and lipids have formed clumps in the oil. That material still needs to be separated and the ethanol removed. 

This is where the rotovap comes in. The lower heating temperatures of the rotovap helps to preserve the quality of the oil, and makes the rotovap safer and more energy efficient. 

Cannabis Winterization eBook


What are the pros and cons to the rotovap?

The pros

Rotovaps can be an important tool to have for a more thorough separation process after winterization. They offer an opportunity to produce high quality oil, free from solvent, fats, waxes, and lipids. Rotovaps have been designed to recover solvent, which for cannabis users offers an opportunity to save money on ethanol repurchase by recovering solvent. 

Overall, rotary evaporators can be one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways of removing a volatile solvent like ethanol, from a non-volatile crude oil.

The cons

On the other hand, rotovaps can be messy and difficult to master. Rotovaps can become coated in waxes during its cycle which is challenging to clean up due to its consistency. The usage of a rotovap can also be a tricky business to master, sometimes requiring a designated operator to get the temperature and rotation down to a science. 

Rotovaps are also not required with the winterization process. Sometimes other ethanol recovery systems and filtration processes can be used in place of a rotovap. Maratek’s Oil and Ethanol Recovery Systems perform bulk oil recovery, residual oil recovery, decarboxylation, and water removal within its system and the Maratek Turnkey Winterization System uses multi-filtration to achieve a clean crude oil.

In conclusion, the rotovap is a fundamental invention that can be used in many industries. It is a key component for cannabis producers as it offers many opportunities to improve quality, decrease energy usage and save on your solvent costs. 

Want to learn more about rotovaps in the cannabis and hemp extraction industry? Get in touch with Martek today. We’d be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.

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