CO2 concentrates are consumed primarily through vaporization. Concentrates like CO2 hash oil and CO2 cannabis oil are often used in a vape pen with a pre-filled cartridge. Concentrates like CO2 wax or some other form of CO2 THC extract are often consumed by dabbing. To consume CO2 dabs, you heat a “dab nail” until it’s hot enough to vaporize the concentrate. Once the nail has reached the desired temperature, a small “dab” of concentrate is placed on the nail, where it immediately vaporizes. The vapor is then inhaled, typically through a water pipe.
CO2 oil, sometimes also called CO2 hash oil or CO2 cannabis oil, is the general name used to refer to any cannabis concentrate made using CO2 as a solvent. Beneath the umbrella of CO2 oil there are actually several specific types of cannabis concentrates. But as long as the process through which the concentrate was made uses CO2 as the solvent, the final product can be considered CO2 oil. This also includes CO2 hemp extraction, which uses hemp plants to produce CBD oils and other hemp-derived concentrates.
Supercritical CO2 extraction is a process through which CO2 gas is compressed beyond its “critical point” so that it becomes a “supercritical fluid.” That fluid is then applied to cannabis plant matter, stripping away many of its cannabinoids and terpenes. After that, the entire solution is brought back to temperatures and pressures at which the CO2 reverts to gas and evaporates, leaving behind the chemicals extracted out of the cannabis plant material.
How to Use CO2 Oil
To make CO2 oil, concentrate makers manipulate temperature and pressure to turn CO2 into a liquid. Cannabis plant material is then soaked in the liquid, which chemically strips cannabinoids and terpenes out of the plant matter. After this process is complete, the plant matter is removed from the solution. From there, the concentrate maker again manipulates pressure and temperature to turn the CO2 back into a gas. When the gas evaporates away, it leaves behind a concentrated substance comprised almost entirely of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Carbon dioxide. In cannabis concentrates, CO2 refers to a nonflammable solvent used to extract the desirable compounds from the cannabis plant. The CO2 extraction process can include the use of subcritical and supercritical fluids, which vary in pressure and temperature.
Shatter is a particular type of cannabis concentrate named after its thin, brittle, glass-like structure. Basically, it’s called “shatter” because, unlike other much stickier concentrates, this one is dry and brittle enough to snap and shatter.
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Frequently used in commercial cannabis extraction labs, CO2 is a “ tunable solvent ” (meaning its solvation strength can be tuned incrementally by making slight adjustments to the density of the CO2 supercritical fluid). Supercritical CO2 extraction is hands down the safest and cleanest method of commercially extracting cannabis oil from your plants and it can be used to create a variety of end products.
Yield data is often gathered as it can be helpful in establishing a baseline for a financial model, determining ROI, etc. However, the yield of any extraction process depends upon the quality of the original source material. The cannabinoid content of different strains of cannabis varies greatly, not just between indica and sativa, but within each category there are unique cannabinoid profiles. Generally plants are bred specifically to produce high levels of THC or to be CBD dominant but of course there are many hybrids as well. The amount of total THC extracted compared to the amount present in the feedstock provides the best measure of extraction efficiency.
Why Use Supercritical CO2 in Cannabis Extraction?
Supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) is a variable state of carbon dioxide where it is held at or above it’s liquid-vapor critical point (the maximum temperature and pressure at which a substance can coexist as both a liquid and vapor in equilibrium). According to scientists at Perdue University, CO2 has a critical temperature of approximately 88 degrees fahrenheit and a critical pressure of approximately 1,073 psi (pounds per square inch). When placed under pressure above 1,073 psi, CO2 becomes what is called a “supercritical fluid.”
There are many pros to using CO2 as a solvent in the cannabis extraction process.
Supercritical CO2 extraction involves using controlled temperature and pressure to create phase (or state of matter) changes in CO2 (carbon dioxide) for the purpose of extracting cannabis plant material while maintaining the integrity and amounts of terpenes found in the plant material. At the same time, it protects cannabinoids from decarboxylation during the extraction process. The phase changes (for example, from gas to liquid) in CO2 allow you to separate out plant material of different weights during the extraction process.
While pricey, supercritical extractors compare well to the cost of other solvent based approaches when taking into account the safety equipment and special facilities legally required in some countries for working with flammable solvents.
The following is a very basic outline of how the ScCO2 process works:
Supercritical CO2 Cannabis Oil Extraction Process
Subcritical CO2 extraction produces a substance with a consistency more like molasses. The subcritical product also preserves cannabinoids other than CBD; which may or may not be desirable.
As we mentioned in our guide to cannabidiol (CBD), cannabis oil is usually extracted on a commercial scale either through the use of solvents such as hexane or butane, or through more modern supercritical/subcritical CO2 (carbon dioxide) processes.
It all seems quite simple, but the equipment involved is very expensive; costing from tens of thousands of dollars for small units and running into hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cutting-edge setup with a 60 litre extractor capacity. Top-end equipment can also separate individual desired compounds as the extraction process is occurring (fractionation).