What is Supercritical CO₂ Extraction?

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Supercritical CO2 Extraction for CBD

In 2018, financiers put billions of investment dollars into the industrial hemp industry within the United States. They invested in in hemp as textiles, paper products, clothing, food sources, and more. But for the purposes of this article, we're mainly looking at hemp as it relates to  dietary supplements edibles. With the passage of the Hemp Farming Bill of 2018, legal hemp products are on the rise across America. The ability to extract and purify CBD and other cannabinoids is essential to the booming hemp industry.  With several extraction methods out their, which is the best? Our opinion? Supercritical CO2 Extraction.

Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction is becoming the top method of separating various compounds from hemp plants. This is because it produces the purest, cleanest, and safest net results over most other methods of extraction.

The Sciencey Bit

Carbon dioxide reaches what's known as a supercritical state at a pressure of 1071 psi and temperature of 31.1°C. When molecules reach a supercritical state, they possess the properties of both a liquid and a gas. As a result, the CO2 can easily move into tiny spaces like a gas while also dissolving and acting like a liquid solvent.

In this state, high tech machinery is easily able to manipulate the physical properties of supercritical CO2. This manipulation is what allows our extractors to target and bond the specific molecules we choose. Supercritical CO2 extraction is generally a longer process than other methods. This is due to the continuous fluctuations in temperature and pressure, coupled with the precise nature of the molecule targeting.

CO2 Extraction Equipment

Pictured right, is an example of a a supercritical extraction apparatus made by the company Green Mill. The size of extraction systems varies depending on scale of the extraction facilities operations. The device pictured is a compact model, though large scale facilities may have several to dozens of such machines operating at any one time. Systems like those pictured can be automated, so producers can set it and walk away. 

Supercritical CO2 Extraction Machine

CBD Extraction Process

To start cannabinoid extraction, we must grind and place the hemp plant material into the extraction vessel. The CO2 gas then undergoes high temperature and pressure to reach a supercritical state. Then, a pump forces the supercritical CO2 into the extraction vessel where it meets the hemp material and breaks it down to dissolve the plant material from a physical to a liquid state. The liquid material then passes through a pressure release valve and flows into a separator. This is where an internal compressor and heater once again adjust both temperature and pressure. Through adjusting the temperature, pressure, and flow rate, the molecules we target bond to CO2. Thus allowing them to be separated from the rest of the plant material. From the separator, the extract is moves onto a final collection apparatus, such as a beaker.

Benefits of Supercritical CO2 Extraction

By using supercritical CO2, we have total control over the entire extraction process. We can recycle the CO2 which makes this method more environmentally friendly than others. Most notably, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says that CO2 is safe for industrial extractions. Most importantly, the CO2 acts as a cleaning agent. It kills microbial bacteria, molds, and mildews during the process. Typically, this method also produces a higher yield than other extraction methods.

If any CO2 residue is on the extract, it evaporates, as CO2 is a gas at room temperature. Full-spectrum CBD extracts obtained from the supercritical CO2 method is most appealing because it is guaranteed to have no residual solvents present on the final product. Because no residual solvents remain, the extract is purer than most solvent-based methods. As a bonus, the hemp plant is not introduced to high temperatures, which prevents the degradation that occurs during other extraction methods.

Quick Overview

Supercritical carbon dioxide is a widely used extraction method in the hemp industry. It effectively purifies crude hemp plant material. In a supercritical state, CO2 allows the producer to remain in control of the extraction process and to isolate the specific cannabinoids we use in our products.

About Vitality CBD™

Vitality CBD exists to provide a healthy and natural alternative to the pharmaceutical industry. We embrace charity, sustainability, quality, trustworthiness, and domestic sourcing as our core operational values. All our CBD products are grown, harvested, extracted, and bottled all in American owned and operated facilities. Vitality CBD products are certified Non-GMO, Organic, Vegan, and Gluten-Free. Take 20% off your first online order with code FT20 today!

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