What is Fractional Distillation for Cannabis and Hemp Extraction?

Cannabis leaf

When it comes to cannabis and hemp oil extraction it really boils down to the end-product that your business is creating. So, how can your company not only create a better end-product to drive revenues, but also improve your internal processes?

The answer is simple. Investing in better pieces of equipment that help you to both improve the way your business operates and allows you to create a higher-purity product with no extra effort needed.

Distillation techniques have improved rapidly in the past few years, and fractional distillation is now far more effective for your cannabis and hemp oil extraction than other simpler distillation methods.

In this blog, Maratek takes a look at what simple distillation is, how fractional distillation differs and why it's the best method for your hemp and cannabis oil extraction methods.

What is simple distillation?

Distillation is a single stage distillation in which a liquid mixture is boiled and the resulting vapor condensed. The most common examples of simple distillation are either wiped film or short path distillation.

Simple distillation is most useful in situations in which you are attempting to separate a compound with very different boiling points. It can provide a moderate improvement in purity.

Fractional distillation, however, is far more effective for the process of cannabis and hemp oil extraction.

What is fractional distillation?

Fractional distillation starts out the same as simple distillation, with crude extract being boiled to create vapour. It differs in the fact that fractional distillation has additional stages of separation inside of the equipment.

These additional stages of separation significantly increase the ability to produce significantly higher levels of purification, when compared with a simple distillation method. It’s also much more effective at making difficult separations.

Why fractional distillation is better than simple distillation

When it comes to extracting high-purity oils from cannabis and hemp, the choice of distillation method plays a pivotal role. While simple distillation has its uses, fractional distillation offers several key advantages that make it the superior choice for businesses aiming for top-quality products.

Increased purity and efficiency

Higher Levels of Refinement: Fractional distillation can achieve much higher purity levels compared to simple distillation. This is due to the multiple stages of vaporization and condensation within the fractional distillation setup. Each stage, or 'fraction,' helps in further separating and refining the components based on their boiling points.

Efficient Separation of Compounds: In cannabis and hemp oil extraction, the presence of compounds with similar boiling points can make separation challenging. Fractional distillation excels in separating these closely related compounds, ensuring a purer end product.

Enhanced terpene and cannabinoid separation

Selective removal of terpenes: Terpenes and cannabinoids, although beneficial, can have overlapping boiling points. Fractional distillation allows for a more controlled and precise separation, preserving the integrity of cannabinoids while effectively removing unwanted terpenes.

Customizable for desired profiles: The adjustable nature of fractional distillation makes it possible to tailor the end product to specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles, providing a significant advantage in customizing products for different market needs.

Cost-effectiveness and time efficiency

Reduced operational costs: With fractional distillation, the need for multiple passes to achieve purity is greatly diminished. This results in lower operational costs and less time spent on processing.

Automated process for consistent quality: Many fractional distillation systems are automated, ensuring consistency in product quality and reducing the likelihood of human error.

Environmentally Friendly

Reduced waste production: By maximizing the purity and yield of the extracted oils, fractional distillation minimizes waste, making it an environmentally friendly choice.

Energy efficiency: Advanced fractional distillation equipment often comes with energy-efficient features, further reducing the carbon footprint of the extraction process.

Versatility in application

Wide range of product applications: The ability of fractional distillation to produce highly pure extracts makes it suitable for a broad spectrum of products, including pharmaceuticals, edibles, and topicals.

Why is fractional distillation important for cannabis and hemp extraction?

Terpenes (and terpenoids) are aromatic organic hydrocarbons found in many plants and even some insects. These organic compounds can cause odour, bad taste and discolour in your cannabis and hemp extraction that will all affect the purity of your finished product.

To create a high-quality product you need to perform difficult separations that remove these terpenes from your product. However, with terpenes having boiling points that are close to that of THC and CBD, this separation becomes even more difficult.

Thankfully, this is exactly why fractional distillation is so effective for cannabis and hemp oil extraction. By using fractional distillation, and other world-class extraction equipment, your company will be able to create a finished product with over 99 percent purity.

Unlike wiped film and short path, which require at least two to three passes, fractional distillation will create a higher quality product in just one automated pass.

How can Maratek Environmental help?

Maratek's uniquely designed “F Series” for automated fractional distillation helps to refine cannabinoids from your crude cannabis extracts and other compounds within your stream.

Most commonly in the hemp and cannabis industry these are used to consistently de-water solvents (i.e. ethanol) and bring them back to a high grade before being reused in your extraction and/or winterization processes.

These systems can also be designed to separate other undesirable components, particulates, and solvents from your stream, for which we can easily engineer and manufacture an “F Series” system specific to your company's needs.

The “F Series” systems can also be easily integrated with Maratek's Oil and Ethanol Recovery Systems, as well as any other equipment in your facility, allowing you to streamline and automate your entire production process.

Want to learn more about how Cannabis Oil Tech by Maratek can help your company create a cannabis or hemp product with an incredibly high purity, while at the same time significantly enhancing your organization’s processes? Contact us today for more information.

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