News, North America, Processing, Research, USA

Cryogenic freezing of cannabinoids under study in USA

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A research project in the USA is looking at the benefits of cryogenic freezing on cannabinoids found in industrial hemp, from the time of harvest through extraction and final processing.

The research team is studying cryogenic processing profiles that will “address knowledge gaps and provide best practices to maximize value immediately transferrable to hemp growers and processors seeking to optimize their product yield,” said Bryan Berger, University of Virginia (UVA) associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering. UVA and industrial gas supplier Air Products are collaborating on the research.

Industrial & medical

Berger and the cryogenic freezing technology lab at Air Products’ headquarters in Pennsylvania are studying the effect of liquid cryogens such as liquid nitrogen on the quantification, chemical composition and profiles of cannabinoids found in hemp used in industrial and medical applications.

“Our experience and advanced cryogenic technology have provided game-changing solutions for those in the biotech and food industries, and we look forward to collaborating with those in the industrial hemp industry to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their processes,” said Timothy Lebrecht, Industry Manager for Chemical Process Industries and Cryogenics at Air Products.

Supporting processes

Industrial gases can play an important role at several points in the hemp value chain:

  • Harvesting – Flash freezing freshly-harvested industrial hemp with liquid nitrogen prior to help prevent biomass degradation or mold while locking in the chemical content.
  • Processing – Adding liquid nitrogen when grinding biomass material, to eliminate heat and oil stickiness that causes machine clogging and downtime.
  • Extraction – For ethanol extraction, using the ultracold properties of liquid nitrogen to maintain temperatures in the less than -80⁰C range for precise extraction.
  • Packaging – Dosing the final product with a small amount of liquid nitrogen to provide against oxidation or moisture, enhancing oil quality and shelf-life.
  • Inerting/Blanketing – Keeping oils free from moisture and oxygen via nitrogen blanketing to extend shelf-life, and to meet best practices standards for safety and quality.

Partnerships

Bryan Berger, University of Virginia.

Berger and other industrial hemp researchers at UVA work with state, academic, private and non-profit partners to develop new approaches for processing hemp into products. He has experience in design, extraction, formulation and biomanufacturing of biologics and natural products. Berger and UVA Lewis & Clark Professor of Biology Michael P. Timko co-founded Fiacre Enterprises, which provides high-quality seeds and expertise to industrial hemp growers. Berger is also the co-founder of Lytos Technologies, a start-up developing biopesticides for organic agricultural

Air Products serves the biotech, food, and chemical processing sectors that need low temperature, fast-freezing solutions, and can test products on commercial-scale equipment to determine the feasibility of using cryogenic freezing or chilling for their specific processes.

The company has cryogenics laboratories in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

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