Supercritical Fluid Extraction Improved by Power Ultrasonics

Ultrasonic extraction alone or in combination with alternative extraction methods such as solvent extraction or supercritical CO2 extractors is successfully used to extract the full spectrum of cannabinoids from the cannabis plant (hemp and marijuana). In marijuana, the main cannabinoid constituent is Δ9-tetrahydro-cannabinol (Δ9-THC) with its well-known psychotropic effects. Other important cannabinoids with less or no psychotropic activity can be found in both, hemp and marijuana, and include cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabicyclol (CBL), along with other C19 associated homologs.

Ultrasonically Improved Supercritical CO2 Extraction

The combination of high-power ultrasound and supercritical fluid extractors (SFE) is highly efficient and clean method to accelerate and improve mass transfer processes. Mass transfer between raw material (e.g., botanicals such as leaves, flowers, buds etc.) and the solvent (e.g., supercritical CO2) is the limiting factor during extraction processes. Due to the limited mass transfer, the extraction efficiency is reduced. To compensate for the lacking efficiency, either extraction time must be incresed or extraction yield has to be sacrificed.
High-power ultrasonication is a well-proven technology to intensify slow reactions by improving mass transfer between to phases. By intense vibrations, shear forces, and agitating turbulences, power ultrasound exposes the extraction raw material at a significantly increased rate to the solvent. This results in superior extraction yields and a reduced extraction time. Ultrasonication enhances the extraction efficiency of any type of supercritical fluid extractor:

  • by increasing yield
  • by shortening the extraction time
  • by reducing the required pressure
  • by improving overall production capacity

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Ultrasonication improves the extraction efficiency of supercritical CO2 extraction systems

UIP2000hdT ultrasonic extractor can be flanged to supercritical CO extraction columns to improve mass transfer and thereby extraction yield

Ultrasonic enhancement of mass transfer in supercritical CO2 extraction processes can be easily realized by implementing a high-performance ultrasonic probe such as a Cascatrode into the supercritical fluid extractor. Hielscher Ultrasonics probes (also known as ultrasonic horns, sonotrodes) can be connected via standard flange sealing and are compatible for swedge lock connectors. This makes installation and operation simple and safe. As all Hielscher ultrasonicators known for their robustness and continuous performance, an once installed system is of low maintenance.

Ultrasonically Promoted Supercritical Fluid Extraction at Any Scale
Hielscher ultrasonicators and probes are available for

  • small scale / lab supercritical fluid extractors
  • semi-industrial scale
  • industrial scale
Ultrasonic probe extractors coupled into supercritical CO2 extraction systems improve the overall efficiency.

Ultrasonic extractor implemented into a supercritical CO2 system to improve mass transfer. This increases extraction yield and reduces extraction time and temperature.
figure and study: Hu et al. 2007

Case Study for Ultrasonically Enhanced Supercritical CO2 Extraction

Ginger Extraction: Balachandran et al. (2006) investigated the efficiency of ultrasonically assisted supercritical CO2 extraction using the Hielscher ultrasonicator UIP500hdT. They studied the influence of ultrasound on supercritical extraction using freeze-dried ginger. “The yield of pungent compounds from ginger is significantly increased under the influence of ultrasound, with improvements of up to 30% towards the end of the extraction period.” (Balachandran et al. 2006)
Read more about ultrasonic ginger extraction!

Ultrasonic Extraction of Dried Ginger
Ultrasonication enhances supercritical CO2 extraction of bioactive compounds from ginger significantly.

FESEM pictures of ginger particles. (A) Experiments without sonication, (B) experiments with sonication using the UIP500hdT .
Picture and study: Balachandran et al. 2006

Hielscher ultrasonicators can

  • intensify mass transfer during SFE
  • increase extract yields
  • accelerate SFE extraction
  • easily handle high-pressures
  • handle various raw materials
  • be retro-fitted into existing SFE systems
  • be flexibly installed
  • be precisely controlled
  • be remotely controlled
  • be safely operated

High-Power Ultrasonic Extractors for Supercritical Fluid Extraction

Ultrasonic booster and probe (cascatrode) mounted to the horn of the ultrasonic transducer UIP2000hdTHielscher ultrasonicators can be easily implemented in any regular supercritical CO2 extractor in order to improve mass transfer and thereby increasing extraction yield.
The ultrasonic probes of the CascatrodeTM type are especially suitable for the integration into an CO2 extractor, since Hielscher cascatrodes offer a high surface area, which emits strong cavitation into the large tanks of CO2 extraction systems and can thereby process large volumes easily. Hielscher Ultrasonics’ robust and reliable 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 reliable continuous operation of high amplitudes as well as the robustness and low maintenance of Hielscher ultrasonic extractors make them the ideal equipment for implementation into R&D and commercial supercritical / subcritical CO2 extractors.

Advantages of Hielscher Ultrasonic Systems:

  • continuously high performance
  • 24/7/365 operation
  • precise process control
  • robustness
  • low maintenance
  • safe and easy to operate
  • remote browser control

The table below gives you an indication of the approximate processing capacity of our ultrasonicators:

Batch Volume Flow Rate Recommended Devices
10 to 2000mL 20 to 400mL/min UP200St, UP400St
0.1 to 8L 0.2 to 2L/min UIP500hdT
0.1 to 20L 0.2 to 4L/min UIP2000hdT
10 to 100L 2 to 10L/min UIP4000hdT
n.a. 10 to 100L/min UIP16000
n.a. larger cluster of UIP16000

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Hielscher Ultrasonics supplies high-performance ultrasonic homogenizers from lab to industrial size.

High performance ultrasonics! Hielscher’s product range covers the full spectrum from the compact lab ultrasonicator over bench-top units to full-industrial ultrasonic systems.