Ultrasonic Extraction and its Working Principle

Ultrasonic extraction is the preferred technique to isolate bioactive compounds from botanicals. Sonication achieves a complete extraction and thereby superior extract yields are obtained in a very short extraction time. Being such an efficient extraction method, ultrasonic extraction is cost- and time-saving, whilst resulting in high-quality extracts, which are used for food, supplements and pharmaceuticals.

Ultrasonic Extraction

Ultrasonic extraction is used in the food, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical industry to release bioactive compounds such as vitamins, polyphenols, polysaccharides, cannabinoids and other phytochemicals from botanicals. The ultrasound-assisted extraction is based on the working principle of acoustic or ultrasonic cavitation.

Advantages of Ultrasonic Extraction

  • High yields
  • Superior Quality
  • Full Spectrum Extracts
  • Rapid Process
  • Compatible with Any Solvent
  • Easy and Safe to Operate
  • Linear Scalability
  • Environmental-Friendly
  • Fast RoI


In this presentation we introduce you to the manufacturing of botanical extracts. We explain the challenges of producing high-quality botanical extracts and how a sonicator can help you to overcome these challenges. This presentation will show you how ultrasonic extraction works. You will learn, what benefits you can expect using a sonicator for extraction and how you can implement an ultrasonic extractor into your extract production.

Ultrasonic Botanical Extraction - How to use sonicators to extract botanical compounds

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Ultrasonic extractors such as the UP400St (400W, 24kHz) intensify conventional water-based botanical extraction and are great for the production of botanical extracts, tinctures and infusions..

Ultrasonic probe UP400St for the extraction of botanical compounds for the production of tinctures and botanical infusions.

How Does Acoustic Cavitation Work?

Ultrasonic homogenizer UP400St for extraction Ultrasonic extraction is achieved when high-power, low-frequency ultrasound waves are coupled into a slurry consisting of botanical material in a solvent. High-power ultrasonic waves are coupled via a probe-type ultrasonic processor into the slurry. Highly energetic ultrasound waves travel through the liquid creating alternating high-pressure / low-pressure cycles, which results in the phenomenon of acoustic cavitation. Acoustic or ultrasonic cavitation leads locally to extreme temperatures, pressures, heating/cooling rates, pressure differentials and high shear forces in the medium. When cavitation bubbles implode on the surface of solids (such as particles, plant cells, tissues etc.), micro-jets and interparticlular collision generate effects such as surface peeling, erosion, particle breakdown, sonoporation (the perforation of cell walls and cell membranes) and cell disruption. Additionally, the implosion of cavitation bubbles in liquid media create macro-turbulences and micro-mixing. Ultrasonic irradiation represents an efficient way to enhance mass transfer processes, since sonication results in cavitation and its related mechanisms such as micros-movement by liquid jets, compression and decompression in the material with the subsequent disruption of cell walls, as well as high heating and cooling rates.
Probe-type ultrasonicators can generate very high amplitudes, which is necessary to generate impactful cavitation. Hielscher Ultrasonic manufactures high-performance ultrasonic extractors, which can easily create amplitudes of 200µm in continuous 24/7 operation. For even higher amplitudes, Hielscher offers specified high-amplitude sonotrodes (probes).
Pressurizable ultrasonic reactors and flow cells are used to intensify the cavitation. With increasing pressures, cavitation and cavitational shear forces become more destructive and improve thereby the ultrasonic extraction effects.

Ultrasonic / acoustic cavitation creates highly intense forces which opens the cell walls known as lysis (Click to enlarge!)

Ultrasonic extraction is based on acoustic cavitation and its hydrodynamic shear forces

This video clip shows the efficient extraction of bioactive compounds from medicinal mushrooms. The Hielscher ultrasonic homogenizer UP400St is widely use to produce high-quality mushroom extracts.

Ultrasonic Extraction of Bioactive Compounds from Medicinal Mushrooms

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Effects of Ultrasonic Extraction

Ultrasonic Cell Disruption and Increase of Mass Transfer
Ultrasound can assist extraction processes both through cell disruption and by enhancing mass transfer in the boundary layer surrounding the solid matrix.
Sonoporation, the perforation of cell walls and membranes, enhances the permeability of the cell walls and membranes and is often an intermediate step before cells are disrupted completely by sonication.
The mechanical effects of ultrasound-induced cavitation, such as heat and pressure differentials, shock waves, shear forces, liquid jets and micro streaming, intensify the penetration of the solvent into the cell interior and improves the mass transfer between cell and solvent so that the intercellular materials are transferred into the solvent.

Ultrasonic disruptors are used for extractions from phyto sources (e.g. plants, algae, fungi)

Ultrasonic extraction from plant cells: the microscopic transverse section (TS) shows the mechanism of actions during ultrasonic extraction from cells (magnification 2000x) [resource: Vilkhu et al. 2011]

Ultrasonic processor UIP2000hdT (2kW) with stirred batch reactor

Ultrasonic homogenizer UIP2000hdT (2kW) with continuously stirred batch reactor

Ultrasonic Extraction Equipment

Hielscher Ultrasonics processors are high-performance extraction systems, which are simple and safe to operate. In accordance on your raw material, process capacities and output target, Hielscher offers you the most suitable ultrasonicator. Our product portfolio ranges from compact, powerful hand-held ultrasonicators over bench-top system to fully-industrial ultrasonic units capable to process several tons per hour.
Hielscher Ultrasonics extractors can be used for batch and continuous inline extraction and can be used in combination with any solvent.
Various accessories such as sonotrodes (probes) of various sizes and shapes, booster horns, flow cells with various volumes and geometries, pluggable temperature and pressure sensors and many other gadgets are available to assemble the ideal ultrasonic setup for your extraction process.
All our digital models are equipped with intelligent software, which allows you to adjust, monitor, and set extraction parameters. Due to the precise control over amplitude, sonication time and duty cycles, optimum process results such as superior yield and highest extract quality can be achieved. The automatic data recording of the sonication process are the bases for process standardization and reproducibility / repeatability, which are required for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Hielscher Ultrasonics industrial ultrasonic processors can deliver very high amplitudes. Amplitudes of up to 200µm can be easily continuously run in 24/7 operation. For even higher amplitudes, customized ultrasonic sonotrodes are available. The robustness of Hielscher ultrasonic equipment allows for 24/7 operation at heavy duty and in demanding environments.
The table below gives you an indication of the approximate processing capacity of our ultrasonicators:

Batch VolumeFlow RateRecommended Devices
1 to 500mL10 to 200mL/minUP100H
10 to 2000mL20 to 400mL/minUP200Ht, UP400St
0.1 to 20L0.2 to 4L/minUIP2000hdT
10 to 100L2 to 10L/minUIP4000hdT
n.a.10 to 100L/minUIP16000
n.a.largercluster of UIP16000
Ultrasonic botanical extraction gives higher yields. The Hielscher UIP2000hdT, 2000 watts homogenizer is powerful enough to extract batches from 10 liters to 120 liters easily.

Ultrasonic Extraction of Botanicals - 30 Liter / 8 Gallon Batch

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Ask for more information

Please use the form below to request additional information about ultrasonic processors, applications and price. We will be glad to discuss your process with you and to offer you an ultrasonic system meeting your requirements!

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Hielscher Ultrasonics manufactures high-performance ultrasonic homogenizers for dispersion, emulsification and cell extraction.

High-power ultrasonic homogenizers from lab to pilot and industrial scale.

Literature / References


Facts Worth Knowing

Botanical Extracts

Botanical extracts are bioactive compounds, which are isolated from plant material such as herbs, flowers, leaves, stems, roots and other plant parts. Bioactive compounds such as vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols, polysaccharides, cannabinoids and other plant molecules are used as functional food additives, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, pharmaceuticals as well as natural colorants.

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