Cannabis is a flowering plant that has long been used for medicinal, therapeutic, and recreational purposes. Cannabis contains more than 500 different compounds, including a unique class of terpeno-phenolic compounds known as cannabinoids. Δ9
-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the most extensively studied cannabinoids. They have been associated with the therapeutic and medicinal properties of the cannabis plant and also with its popularity as a recreational drug. In this paper, an industrial method for cannabis extraction using 915 MHz microwaves coupled with continuous flow operation is presented. The main advantages of the microwave-assisted extraction (MAE) are associated to the continuous-flow operation at atmospheric pressure which allows for higher volumes of biomass to be processed in less time than existing extraction methods, with improved extraction efficiency leading to increased final product yields, improved extract consistency and quality because the process does not require stopping and restarting material flows, and ease of scale-up to industrial scale without the use of pressurised batch vessels. Moreover, due to the flexibility of changing the operation conditions, MAE eliminates additional steps required in most extraction methods, such as biomass decarboxylation or winterisation, which typically adds at least a half day to the extraction process. Another factor that sets MAE apart is the ability to achieve high extraction efficiency, i.e., up to 95% of the active compounds from cannabis biomass can be recovered at industrial scale.
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