Lehigh Valley PA

Air Products Partners with a University of Virginia Professor on Research Studying the Benefits of Cryogenic Freezing on Industrial Hemp

Air Products (NYSE:APD) is collaborating with a professor at the University of Virginia on research studying the benefits of cryogenic freezing on cannabinoids  found in industrial hemp from the time of harvest through extraction and final processing.

As part of the research, Dr. Bryan Berger, an associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, will work closely with the cryogenic freezing technology lab at Air Products’ headquarters in Pennsylvania to study the effects of using liquid cryogens such as liquid nitrogen on the quantification, chemical composition and profiles of cannabinoids found in hemp used in industrial and medical applications.*

“We believe this research will demonstrate the many benefits cryogenic freezing can have for the industrial hemp industry,” said Michael Himes, of Air Products’ Merchant Research and Development. “Our experience and advanced 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.”

At University of Virginia, Berger is part of the industrial hemp research program and works with state, academic, private and non-profit partners to develop new approaches for hemp processing into products. He brings extensive experience in design, extraction, formulation and biomanufacturing of biologics and natural products. He is co-founder of Fiacre Enterprises, which provides high-quality industrial hemp seed to growers as well as expertise in growing, processing and product development. He is also the co-founder of Lytos Technologies, an early-stage start-up pioneering green, organic biofungicides to protect high-value agricultural crops pre-harvest including cannabis.

“Through this work with Air Products, the team anticipates 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,” Berger said. 

In the fast-growing industrial hemp market, industrial gases can play an important role in growing, harvesting, processing, extraction and packaging. There are several ways industrial gases and freezing can help including:

  • Harvesting – Flash freezing freshly harvested hemp with liquid nitrogen prior to storage in an Air Products’ Freshline® IQ  Freezer can help prevent biomass degradation or mold while locking in the plant’s rich chemical content.

  • Processing – During the biomass material preparation process, adding liquid nitrogen to the mill when grinding can eliminate heat and subsequent oil stickiness that causes clogging and downtime. Pre-cooling biomass prior to entering extraction using a PolarFit® Cryogenic Cooling Conveyor provides a perfect means of temperature control.

  • Extraction – For ethanol extraction, the ultracold properties of liquid nitrogen can be used to achieve and maintain temperatures in the less than -80⁰C range as a cost effective and efficient means of precise extraction.

  • Packaging – Dosing the final package of product with a small amount of liquid nitrogen can serve as a protective layer from oxidation or moisture effectively blanketing the oils enhancing quality and shelf-life.

  • Inerting/Blanketing – When working with flammable materials or to keep CBD product fresh, using a nitrogen blanketing system is a best practice for safety and to achieve a high-quality product. Keeping oils free from moisture and oxygen via nitrogen blanketing can also extend shelf-life.

As a global leader in industrial gases and cryogenic technology applications, Air Products has the experience and technical know-how to help biotech, food, and chemical processors address some of their toughest challenges through low temperature, fast- freezing. With cryogenics laboratories located in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, the company can test a customer’s product on commercial-scale equipment to determine the feasibility of using cryogenic freezing or chilling for their specific process.

*Air Products will only sell to customers in the industrial hemp market who can show compliance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations.