How Fractional Distillation Can Improve Cannabis and Hemp Extraction

Extraction blogExtraction is a critical stage in the production of cannabis and hemp products. Improving the extraction process can help create a better product for customers. One way to enhance extraction is by improving the equipment that your business uses. 

Investing in better equipment can increase production efficiency and enable your business to create higher quality products. There have been significant technological advancements in the cannabis industry, including fractional distillation.

What Happens During Distillation?

Distillation involves heating a mixture and condensing the vapor produced to extract a specific compound. Each compound has a boiling point that must be reached before it becomes vapor. This required temperature can be higher or lower depending on the pressure applied to the reaction.

Once the desired compound vaporizes, it passes through a condenser that cools the vapor and reforms it as a liquid that can then be collected. An example of a simple distillation method is wiped film distillation (WFD). WFD creates a thin film of oil on a hot surface, and the compounds in the oil vaporize due to the heat. The vapor is then cooled, condensed, and collected as a distillate.

What Makes Fractional Distillation Different?

The mechanisms behind simple distillation and fractional distillation are similar, but there is a key difference. Fractional distillation requires a fractionating column that provides improved separation. As the heated vapor travels up the column, it cools and condenses on the trays that line the inside. The condensed liquid then travels back down to be vaporized again.

As this cycle continues, the resulting vapor becomes increasingly concentrated, and eventually, the vapor and liquid reach an equilibrium. At the top of the fractional column, highly concentrated and volatile vapor travels to a condenser to be collected as a liquid. The remaining liquid at the bottom of the column has only small trace amounts of the desired compounds.

How Can Fractional Distillation Improve Cannabis and Hemp Extraction?

Simple distillation is best used when the boiling points of the compounds in a mixture differ by more than 25°C. Due to the similarity of the boiling points of the compounds within cannabis and hemp, fractional distillation is more effective for extraction. 

Simple processes like wiped film distillation do not have the capacity to fractionate with the degree of separation that fractional distillation can achieve, meaning that the extracts collected through WFD are not highly refined.

One way to improve the quality of cannabis and hemp products is to limit the number of terpenes in the product. Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons found in plants that can cause an undesirable taste, odor, and color in the final product.  

Fractional distillation can help remove these compounds that would otherwise be carried over in a simple distillation process due to the similarity of the boiling points of CBD and THC.

At Maratek, we offer a variety of distillate production systems. If you wish to learn more about fractional distillation or how Maratek can help improve your hemp or cannabis business, contact us today.

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