BUCHI: Pioneering Chemistry and CannabisThis week, CannabisTech had the opportunity to speak with Patrick Kohlhaas, a Field Applications Specialist with BUCHI. Although BUCHI has worked extensively with other industries like pharmaceuticals, oil, and anyone who uses chemistry processes, Kohlhaas’ newly created position has been spearheading the cannabis industry for the last two years to bring pharmaceutical-grade processes into cannabis production with a goal to provide higher-quality, safer cannabis-based products.
Old Science in a New Industry
BUCHI was founded in 1939, and has been perfecting lab technologies and processes for various industries. The booming cannabis industry is no exception. Kohlhaas explains in the immature industry of legal cannabis standards can shift with each state or location, however, BUCHI can provide industry wide-solutions for common trends including a push for purity and pesticide removal, cannabinoid extraction and separation, and solvent recovery.
The Rotavapor®, first developed for commercial use in 1957, provides large-scale distillation processes and solvent recovery. In cannabis extract production, large quantities of solvents are used. Typically, the step after extraction would be to concentrate the cannabinoids by evaporating the solvent. However, using a pharmaceutical grade Rotavapor® R-220 Pro, the solvents are completely recovered from the extracts, so it can be recycled, thus reducing operating costs. In addition, no residual solvents are left in the end-product. BUCHI’s advanced technology provides a safer product through purity.
The Rotavapor® is simple to use. Pre-programmed with a solvent library, “The system takes the guess work out of solvent removal,” says Kolhaas. Controlled from a touch screen interface, Kolhaas explained each device can be customized for processes individual to each company.
With changing laws and the push for research, there is growing interest around studying the individual cannabinoids, or the possibility of extracting the psychoactive cannabinoids. These studies need large amount of highly pure, separated cannabinoids. Kolhaas explains how labs can easily do this with the Reveleris® flash chromatography system.
Again, using solvents, the Reveleris® separates and collects individual cannabinoids from the extract. In addition, one of the most attractive components of this system is for purity. The Reveleris® can remove pesticides and isolate individual cannabinoids in one process. After this process is complete, the Rotavapor® is used again to separate the solvents from the cannabinoids leaving behind absolutely pure, individual fractions of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.
Other BUCHI Solutions
In addition to providing purity and pharmaceutical grade extraction solutions, BUCHI offers other solutions which have potential within the cannabis as well. For example, Kolhaas mentioned encapsulation and spray drying, which are not new technologies, as the pharmaceutical and food industries have been using them for years, but they are new to the cannabis industry.
Through spray drying, BUCHI has been able to take isolated cannabinoids and increase its water solubility, making “free-flowing” THC and CBD powders for use in medical application or in food preparation. Encapsulation, on the other hand is the process of putting a “shell” around a core particle, in this case, a cannabinoid. Kolhaas explained, “the process of encapsulation may include wrapping the cannabinoid in a compound like algae, or it may be a more interspersed method, like mixing cookie dough.”
Kohlhaas admits, the legal limitations of the cannabis industry, as well as, the lingering stigmas about cannabis are the biggest hurdle in merging cannabis with advanced sciences. With uneven laws from state to state, and no direction from the federal government on standards this creates challenges for growth. In addition, due to the stigmas still associated with cannabis, the industry isn’t pulling in chemists at the same rate as other industries, according to Kohlhaas, and accessibility to higher skill levels is a problem.
Comparing it to the craft beer industry, Kohlhaas believes the cannabis industry will continue to have a diversified customer base, but the industry will most likely merge into a few big companies similar to other more mature industries. Bigger cannabis companies to push for mass production, while smaller specialty shops will continue to provide high-quality products. Either way, the consumer push for quality, purity, and safety means products like the Rotavapor® and Reveleris® are going to be invaluable in the future of cannabis.