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Potency Testing with tCheck

Wondering how tCheck makes it possible to test the potency of your infusions or flower? This post explains the ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy inside a tCheck.

Ultraviolet Spectroscopy

Ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy (UV–Vis or UV/Vis) refers to absorption spectroscopy or reflectance spectroscopy in part of the ultraviolet and the full, adjacent visible spectral regions. This means it uses light in the visible and adjacent ranges. The absorption or reflectance in the visible range directly affects the perceived color of the chemicals involved.

Ultraviolet light is transmitted through a medium and the amount of light is measured on the other side. Therefore, the amount of THC in the medium determines the potency.

tCheck and potency testing

tCheck is an application specific spectrometer. It works by shining a specific wavelength (colours) of light through the infusion, then measuring the amount of light that makes it through.

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You can do this experiment at home. Take a flashlight and put it behind a small glass of water, then look at the flashlight through the water. Now, start dripping dye or food coloring into the water. The water gets progressively darker with the addition of more dye.

The water in this experiment is just like our oils and the dye is like the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.). The more cannabinoids in the oil, the darker the water.

Our eyes can only detect a limited range of colours (wavelengths). tCheck uses a wavelength of light beyond our ability to see. However, cannabinoids filter or darken the oil at this wavelength.

Inside tCheck, the light emitter, tray, and receiver have all been calibrated. Therefore, the amount of light generated, the thickness of the oil within the tray, and sensitivity of the detector is always known. This consistency, along with some fancy signal processing, allows tCheck to translate the dimness of the light into what we call a cannabinoids by volume measurement.

An Application Specific Spectrometer

Why do we call it an application specific spectrometer? Because it only measures cannabinoids. Regular spectrometers use a bunch of different wavelengths of light and can measure all kinds of stuff like the carbon dioxide content in Himalayan glacial ice. However, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between 10 000 year old carbon dioxide and other unknown compounds. Massive amounts of data across a wide range of wavelengths need to be collected and compared to get a definitive answer. Even then, it is difficult to determine the amount of carbon dioxide in Himalayan glacial ice.

tCheck does not try to measure anything and everything. It only measures the cannabinoids dissolved in oils and tinctures. Thus, tCheck doesn’t need to make a million measurements and host a gigantic database. By doing only a single function, the electronics inside could be miniaturised.

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tCheck CBD vs THC Testing

A frequently asked question is how to test CBD and THC on the tCheck when there is no setting to choose beforehand. Below is the current status as of 2019/02/01.

Strains with a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio will not work until the latest update is sent. Most strains are either predominantly CBD or THC. For example, with 2-3% CBD and 18% THC, the device will give the THC reading because it is the dominant cannabinoid. CBN or CBG are naturally pretty low and aren’t being tested for. 

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