Synergistic Use of FTIR Spectroscopy and TG to Elucidate the Solid State THCA Decarboxylation Reaction Kinetics in THCA Standard and Cannabis Flower

22 March 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The decarboxylation of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) plays pivotal role in the potency of medical cannabis and its extracts. However, the literature data point out substantial variations in the process reaction rate and conversion efficacy due to variability of the temperature, heat transfer efficacy, raw material attributes, consequently resulting in incomplete decarboxylation, cannabinoid content decrease due to decomposition, evaporation, and possible side reactions. Our present work aims to draw attention to mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy for in-situ monitoring and decipher the THCA decarboxylation reaction in the solid state. The initial TG/DTG curves of THCA, for a first time outlined the solid-solid decarboxylation dynamics, defined the endpoint of the process and the temperature of the maximal conversion rate, which aided in the design of the further IR experiments. Temperature controlled IR spectroscopy experiments were performed on both THCA standard and cannabis flower by providing detailed band assignment and conducting spectra-structure correlations, based on the concept of functional groups vibrations. Moreover, a multivariate statistical analysis was employed to depict the spectral regions of utmost importance for the THCA→THC interconversion process. The principal component analysis model was reduced to two PCs, where PC1 explained 94.76% and 98.21% of the total spectral variations in the THCA standard and in the plant sample, respectively. The PC1 plot score of the THCA standard, as a function of the temperature, neatly complemented to the TG/DTG curve and enabled determination of rate constants for the decarboxylation reaction undertaken on several temperatures. Consequently, a progress in elucidation of kinetic models of THCA decarboxylation, fitting experimental data for both, solid state standard substance and a plant flower, was achieved. The results open the horizon to promote an appropriate process analytical technology (PAT) in the outgrowing medical cannabis industry.


Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
Infrared Spectroscopy
plant material


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