Microwave-Assisted Cannabis and Hemp Processing

by | Feb 28, 2019

Many industry experts understand consistent, high-quality extractions are critical for both gaining consumers’ trust as well as passing the increasingly stringent regulations. Once Dr. Steven Splinter and the team at Radient Technologies (TSX Venture: RTI; OTCQX: RDDTF) became aware of how the Canadian government would begin to shift the rules on cannabis, they saw an avenue where they could bring MAP™ to the cannabis industry.

“…one of the primary drivers for them (the government) was to make cannabis products safe… there would also be a need to extract cannabinoids with very high efficiency.” Dr. Splinter commented.

Moreover, considering the changes introduced by the Canadian government regarding cannabis laws, Radient partnered up with Aurora Cannabis Inc. in late 2016. One venture involved testing the efficiency of their extraction methods and a press release in late 2017 details the positive results from their partnered program. As the efficacy of the MAP™ technology was established, Radient’s patented technology began to launch into the cannabis industry with vigor.

There is an undeniable need for high-quality cannabis extractions, and MAP™ is applied to the cannabis industry to address this need on a large, commercial scale.

High-Tech Facilities to Meet High Demand

The Radient company has its headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta and is rising to a global scale with two large scale facilities in the pipeline; one being in Edmonton and the second planned for 2020 in Southern Germany.

Commenting on the various facilities in Edmonton, Director of Communications, Caitlin Cheedle provided general logistics and roadmap for Radient’s growth:

  • Edmonton I facility, which is GMP-compliant, Health Canada approved and has NNHPD licensing, currently processes cannabis only and can handle 200/kg per day of cannabis material.
  • Edmonton II is currently being retrofitted to process industrial hemp (for extracting CBD). Expecting to be completed by the end of 2019, the company expects to process 1,500 kg per day of industrial hemp.
  • Edmonton III, expected to be finished by 2020, will process more than 1,000 kg of medical cannabis and more than 10,000 mg of industrial hemp per day.
  • With construction also expected to complete by 2020, the Germany location promises to process the same quantity of bio-mass as the Edmonton III facility.

Quantity with the Quality – What is MAP™?

Let’s review Microwave Assisted Processing and why it is an important yardstick for the industry. According to Dr. Splinter, the patented MAP ™ technology makes use of microwaves to enhance the extraction of compounds out of natural biomass. This means the technology uses the energy of microwaves to heat moisture found in natural materials, in this case the natural materials will be cannabis biomass or industrial hemp.

How Do Microwaves Work and How does it Differ from Other Extraction Methods?

The microwaves work by providing instant heat and allowing a precise element of control to the overall process, an aspect unique to microwave-assisted extraction. Dr. Splinter explains, “There are a couple of ways of describing it, but the main way of thinking about it is that microwaves don’t heat by the normal processes of conduction, convection, etc. from hot surfaces but rather they heat instantly due to the interactions of the wave with the material being treated.”

He continued, “Because of that, microwaves actually heat selectively, meaning that certain materials absorb and dissipate the microwave energy differently than others. So, one simple way of understanding why microwaves are good for extraction from plant material is that, typically, most of the energy is deposited inside the residual water, and so you can create some pressure, and you are not waiting for the normal slow extraction driving forces of diffusion to get your components out into the solvent.”

When it comes to extraction methods, the usual suspects are generally solvent-based and based on diffusion, a process which relies on concentration gradients. In contrast, the MAP™ technology is a pressure-driven process with instantaneous and focused heating of the cannabis mass. This means it can be applied on a larger scale and the full profile of the biomass can be maintained.

Dr. Splinter stated, “What separates us from anybody else…is our ability to do it at scale. We’ve perfected the technology over the years and can implement these benefits at commercially relevant scales.”

How is Microwave Assisted Extraction Superior to Solvent-Based Extractions?

MAP™ offers several benefits including faster processing time and higher yields. Additionally, the resulting product has a higher purity. MAP™ uses less energy and fewer solvents. Radient’s trademarked technology requires only ethanol and water to be utilized as solvents thereby eliminating the presence of harmful toxic substances. When compared to several conventional extraction techniques, microwave assisted processing saves time and reduces overall processing costs.

One of the most important benefits, however, is the fact that this extraction process can be applied on a grander scale. Conventional methods such as ethanol and CO2 extraction methods do offer some element of control. However, it is difficult to maintain the same control when using those extraction methods on a larger commercial scale.

Microwave energy is used to select and isolate the critical compounds in the biomass. This focus of microwaves into the biomass results in direct volumetric heating. Instantaneous and focused heat are the two main advantages driving MAP™ towards success on a global platform. The continuous flow extraction is so rapid it reduces extraction time into minutes rather than hours.

What does the Future Hold?

Dr. Splinter concedes that a shift towards stronger regulations and higher quality products is likely in the foreseeable future. The cannabis industry is in a continuous evolutionary stage- as researchers uncover how the components of the cannabis plant can be utilized for various health benefits, technologies are stepping up to match. And, in a society where profit is king, but the king is ruled by reliable quality, MAP™ technology offers a solution for meeting the ever-increasing industry demand-without sacrificing the purity of product.