9 Things You Need To Know About CO₂ Extraction

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What is CO₂ extraction?

CO₂ extraction is a very sophisticated process that utilises the natural gas CO₂ to carefully extract specific compounds from a broad range of substances.

1. CO₂ extraction cannot be performed at home

That is unless you have a few thousand dollars going spare. The equipment and machinery needed for CO₂ extraction are highly specialised. The entire process requires several storage tanks, compressors, heaters, extractors, and a condenser. However, the result is an environmentally safe, industrial method of extracting raw compounds.

2. The process is used for more products than you think

We mentioned this earlier, but it isn't just hemp plants that put CO₂ extraction to good use. The process is involved in coffee, vanilla, tea, fruit, perfumes, tobacco, spices, and hops. Think of the last time you baked a cake. Chances are you used vanilla extract, a potential product of CO₂ extraction. Extracting compounds in this way is safe, clean, and inflicts minimal impact on the environment.

3. CO₂ is considered a natural product

There is a good chance you will have heard of CO₂ or carbon dioxide before. Our bodies produce the gas naturally when we exhale. It is also colourless, odourless, and exists in the Earth’s atmosphere. Plants also use it to support photosynthesis, and without CO₂, our planet would not be very hospitable. So putting it to good use is easy when the gas is all around us.

4. CO₂ can be both a gas and liquid

We know it sounds strange, especially when we have just revealed how CO₂ exists naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, by subjecting CO₂ to unique conditions, the gas can change to a liquid. It will fill containers like gas, but retain the density of a fluid. Even better, CO₂ can be reverted back to a gas once the extraction process is over, leaving zero traces of itself behind.

5. To turn CO₂ “supercritical”, you need a combination of pressure and temperature

To turn CO₂ supercritical, you first need to transform it into a liquid. You do this by keeping the temperature below -69°C/-92°F, with the pressure sustained at 75 pounds per square inch. To replicate the necessary pressure without machinery, you would have to travel to the deepest depths of the ocean. Once CO₂ is a liquid, we need to ease the pressure and raise the temperature to roughly -32°C/-25°F for it to become supercritical. With such specific conditions needed, it is easy to see why specialised equipment is necessary.

6. No toxins or chemicals are left behind

CO₂ extraction doesn't utilise any flammable or petroleum-based solvents. Moreover, because the gas is condensed after the process is finished, none of the CO₂ is left behind. No residual particles are lurking in the compounds that have been extracted, and you end up with a cleaner, purer product as a result.

7. CO₂ extraction offers complete control

This is one of the crown jewels of CO₂ extraction, especially when it comes to using the method for isolating cannabinoids. Once in a supercritical state, its solubility can be adjusted depending on the pressure. The result is the ability for the liquid to retain specific compounds when it is passed through plant matter. In the case of hemp, it is possible to isolate particular cannabinoids and terpenes.

When these compounds are passed through the different stages of extraction, the CO₂ can be reverted to a gas via condensation, leaving the original compounds untouched. The subtle nature of CO₂ extraction allows greater control compared to volatile methods like butane extraction (BHO).

8. A cleaner, safer product is possible

It isn’t just the lack of toxic chemicals that makes CO₂ extraction hugely beneficial. When using hemp, there will, of course, be the risk of mould or insects lurking in the plant matter. After all, it is a naturally growing plant, so these factors are almost unavoidable. When hemp is subjected to the various stages of CO₂ extraction, microbial bacteria, mildew, and insect mites are destroyed.

9. CO₂ extraction is unlocking new avenues of research

By allowing precise parameters to be met, compounds that would otherwise be destroyed with traditional extraction methods are instead retained with CO₂ extraction. The efficacy of the process is allowing scientists to isolate previously unknown, or unexplored cannabinoids.

By separating compounds into a collection receptacle, we can research each cannabinoid on its own, or in conjunction with others. The result is a vast and sprawling world of potential treatments using various combinations of cannabinoids.

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