Solvency and Cannabis Extraction
Solvency and the Process of Ethanol Cannabis Extraction
A solvent, derived from the Latin, solvo meaning to loosen, unite, or solve, is a substance used to dissolve another, creating a homogenous solution. Solvents are omnipresent in our daily life, water often being referred to as the universal solvent that acts as a medium in which we exist. In nature, solvents are used as carriers for vital nutrients across all organisms. Imagine the sugar dissolved in water being pulled up the phloem through capillary action created by the evaporation occurring along the pores of lemon grass leaves. Clever as we are, we humans have discovered that the uses of these marvellous materials are many.
It is important to note that when two substances form a solution, there is no chemical reaction occurring. One substance dissolving into another is in fact a physical change in which the particles of the solute have oriented themselves in the intermolecular, “gaps” of the solvent due to their electronegative attraction known as dipole moments for polar solvents, and as London forces in the case of non-polar molecules (The London dispersion force is the weakest intermolecular force—a temporary attractive force that results when the electrons in two adjacent atoms occupy positions that make the atoms form temporary dipoles.)
This unique physical property offers several versatile applications, and refinement through the use of a solvent as a carrier (and means of separation) is a mainstay in the cannabis purification industry. In cannabis extraction, all of the above discussed properties of solvents are used in the selective removal of the different components of the cannabis plant, and as a medium for their purification.
When considering the properties of the different components within cannabis, it is clear why the simplest and most pure extracts are produced with non-polar hydrocarbons. Their London interactions in combination with the pressure needed to keep them in a liquid state provide just enough solvency to dissolve the desired non-polar cannabinoids and terpenes before the hydrocarbons are purged off.
The highly electronegative Hydroxyl group of an alcohol provides the perfect dipole interaction to easily capture any desired compounds on a sample of biomass, polar or otherwise. In addition, the solubility of an alcohol can be greatly inhibited by reducing its operating temperature, costly as the process may be.
Other cannabis purification processes in which solvency is vital include winterization, acid/base extraction, and elution. All of these seemingly complex procedures owe their discovery to the simple properties of solvency.
It becomes clear that the administration of simple physical properties can yield increasingly astounding results in the right creative hands. The greatest minds of our past have shown that there are evermore novel applications of these physical characteristics to be discovered for the benefit of the cannabis industry and for the amusement of us all.