1. I have heard the use of industrial gases at ultra-cold cryogenic temperatures are improving hemp processing, but what does cryogenics really mean?
Cryogenics refers to the production of and behavior of materials such as industrial gases at ultra-low temperatures. Such ultra-cold temperatures change these materials’ states of matter—for example, from a gas to a liquid state. Air Products processes nitrogen gas into a liquid state to a very low temperature (-195.79°C / -320°F). In this state, it is referred to as liquid nitrogen (LIN). It can be used in a variety of freezing and cooling applications, such as quick-freezing delicate food products like berries.
2. How can these cryogenic gases, like liquid nitrogen, be used in hemp processing?
Due to its extremely cold temperature, LIN can be used to rapidly freeze products like food or hemp within minutes instead of hours, as is the case with mechanical freezing. It can also be used for rapid cooling in other operations, like mill or conveyor cooling, to prevent sticking and plugging of equipment used to reduce the particle size of hemp biomass, seed or hurd. Another example would be to enhance product purity or quality. For example, in an ethanol extraction process, by using LIN cooling, the temperature of the ethanol can be taken down much colder than traditional mechanical cooling (<-40°C / -40°F) to achieve a purer extraction, since the colder temperatures make it more difficult for unwanted polar plant waxes and chlorophyll to dissolve in the polar ethanol solvent, thereby eliminating them from the final extracted cannabidiol (CBD) product.
3. Why should I consider adding cryogenic gases to my hemp operation?
As the market for hemp-based products expands, so does the demand for quality and safety. New quality requirements and standards are likely to be prescribed or enforced by governing bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), especially in food and beverages containing hemp products. To meet these demands, sustainable, efficient, and repeatable processes will be needed to produce high-quality products at a high rate. That is exactly where cryogenic industrial gases can come to the rescue. We have already proven their value in the food and pharma industries where these controls are already in place. Now, we have translated them to help with hemp by providing consistent, repeatable temperature control to help enable process standardization.
4. Why should I use LIN to freeze freshly harvested hemp?
This is one of the main uses of LIN—it can be used in a cryogenic tunnel freezer to quickly freeze hemp directly after harvesting. It is critical to the value of the crop to preserve the plant’s sensitive chemical compounds and prevent contamination from mold or other material changes. Within minutes, freezing hemp can prevent mold formation and lock in the plant’s chemical compounds for maximizing quality and preservation benefits.
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