Ultrasonic Astaxanthin Extraction for Higher Yields

  • Astaxanthin is a highly potent antioxidant used in pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements.
  • In order to produce high-quality astaxanthin from natural sources such as algae, a high-performance extraction technique is required.
  • Ultrasonic extraction is a mechanical treatment, which gives high yields of astaxanthin in a very short extraction time.

High-Performance Sonicators for High-Quality Astaxanthin Extracts

Ultrasonic extraction is a high-performance extraction technique that uses intense ultrasound waves to extract astaxanthin from natural sources, such as microalgae, krill, or crustaceans. Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring carotenoid pigment known for its powerful antioxidant properties and various health benefits. It is commonly used as a dietary supplement and food coloring agent. Lear how sonication helps to improve your astaxanthin extraction process!

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MultiSonoReactor for improved astaxanthin extraction using high-power ultrasound

MultiSonoReactor for improved astaxanthin extraction using high-power ultrasound

Ultrasonic Extraction of Astaxanthin from Microalgae

Astaxanthin for dietary supplements, which are consumed by humans and animals for their health benefits, astaxanthin is obtained from seafood or extracted from the algae H. pluvialis. Haematococcus pluvialis is a green microalga, which produces high astaxanthin contents when stress conditions are applied, e.g. high salinity, nitrogen deficiency, high temperature and light. With up to 9.2mg/g astaxanthin per algae cell (= up to 3.8% on the dry weight of H. pluvialis), the Haematococcus pluvialis accumulates a very high content of natural astaxanthin and is therefore the preferred organism for the production of astaxanthin.
In order to release astaxanthin from green microalgae, the algae cells must be disrupted. Ultrasonication is well established for the purpose of cell disruption, lysis and isolation of bioactive compounds auch as lipids, antioxidants, polyphenols and natural pigments. High-performance ultrasonics creates purely mechanical forces which disrupt cell walls by shear forces and cause the release of bioactive substances such as astaxanthin.

Ultrasonic Extraction of Astaxanthin from Yeast

UIP4000hdT 4kW powerful ultrasonic processor for extractionPhaffia rhodozyma is a yeast rich in astaxanthin. However, the thick cell wall of P. rhodozyma, which is mainly composed of glucan and responsible for the cell rigidity, makes cell disruption and astaxanthin isolation a demanding task. Researchers (Gogate et al. 2015) found that ultrasonic extraction in combination with lactic acid intensifies the cell disruption and makes the extraction of astaxanthin from P. rhodozyma a greener, environmetal-friendlier process. They used lactic acid as the medium for disruption and ethanol as solvent for extraction. The maximum yield of astaxanthin (90%) was obtained for the ultrasound-assisted extraction approach based on the use of 3 M lactic acid, disruption time of 15 min. Powerful ultrasonic extractors such the UIP4000hd (4kW, see pic. left) in combination with a pressurizable flow-through reactor enable for the generation of very intense cavitation. Cavitational shear forces disrupt the yeast cell walls and promote the mass transfer between the cell interior and the solvent.

Advantages of Ultrasonic Astaxanthin Extraction

  • Superior yield
  • High-speed extractionwithin minutes
  • High quality extractsmild, non-thermal
  • Green solvents (e.g. water/ethanol)
  • Cost-effective
  • Easy and safe operation
  • Low investment and operational costs
  • 24/7 operation under heavy-duty
  • Green, eco-friendly method


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 Astaxanthin Extractionin Batch or Continuous Flow Mode

UP400St agitated 8L extraction setupAstaxanthin is a lipophilic compound and can be dissolved in solvents (e.g. 48.0% ethanol in ethyl acetate) and oils (e.g. soy bean oil).
Batch: Ultrasonic extraction processes can be operated as simple batch processes or as inline treatment, where the medium is continuously fed through an ultrasonic flow-through reactor.
Batch processing is an easy procedure, where the extraction is performed lot by lot. Hielscher Ultrasonics offers ultrasonic processors for small to large batches, i.e. 1L to 120L.
For processing batches of 5 to 10L, we recommend the UP400St with sonotrode S24d22L2D (see pic. left).
For processing batches of approx. 120L, we recommend the sonicator UIP2000hdT with sonotrode RS4d40L4.

Flow-through: For larger volumes and full-scale commercial extraction, a continuous liquid stream is fed through an ultrasonic reactor, where the solvent/botanical slurry is intensely sonicated.
For a volume of approx. 8L/min., we recommend the UIP4000hdT with sonotrode RS4d40L3 and pressurizable flow-cell FC130L4-3G0

Ultrasonic extraction with 2kW system UIP2000hdT

UIP2000hdT (2kW) for large scale batch extraction

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High Performance Ultrasonicators for Extraction

Hielscher Ultrasonics is specialized in manufacturing high-performance sonicators for the production of high-quality extracts from plants, yeasts and cells. The broad product portfolio of Hielscher Ultrasonics ranges from small, powerful lab ultrasonicators to robust bench-top and fully industrial systems, which deliver high intensity ultrasound for the efficient extraction and isolation of bioactive components such as astaxanthin, quercetin, caffeine, curcumin, terpenes etc. All digital sonicators from 200W to 16,000W feature a intuitive menu with programmable settings, a coloured touch display for comfortable operation, an integrated SD card for automatic data recording, browser remote control and many more user-friendly features. The sonotrodes and flow cells (the parts, which are in contact with the medium) can be autoclaved and are easy to clean. All our ultrasonicators are built for 24/7 operation, require low maintenance and are easy and safe to operate.
Coloured touch display of Hielscher digital ultrasonicators.A digital colour display allows for a user-friendly control of the ultrasonic equipment. Our systems are capable to deliver from low up to very high amplitudes. For the extraction of chemical compounds such as astaxanthin, we offer special ultrasonic sonotrodes (also known as ultrasonic probes or horns) that are optimized for the sensitive isolation of high-quality active substances. Hielscher offers special sonotrodes for high amplitudes in combination with pressurizable flow cells that are able to generate extreme cavitational shear forces, which disrupt even very sturdy yeast cells. The robustness of Hielscher ultrasonic equipment allows for 24/7 operation at heavy duty and in demanding environments.
The precise control of the ultrasonic process parameters ensures reproducibility and process standardization. Hielscher industrial-scale, automated ultrasonic extraction systems are designed for high production capacities of superior quality extracts, whilst at the same time reducing labor, cost, and energy.

Contact Us! / Ask Us!

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Please use the form below, if you wish to request additional information about ultrasonic homogenization. We will be glad to offer you an ultrasonic system meeting your requirements.

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Ultrasonic probes are highly efficient for the non-thermal extraction of medicinal mushrooms like Chaga. This video demonstrates the rapid full-spectrum extraction from chaga using the ultrasonicator UP100H.

Mushroom Extraction - Cold Chaga Mushroom Extraction using Ultrasonication

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Facts Worth Knowing


Ultrasonic extraction or sono-extraction is based on the principle of acoustic cavitation.
When intense ultrasound waves are applied to liquid systems, acoustic cavitation occurs, which is the phenomenon of the generation, growth and eventual collapse of vacuum bubbles (see pic. below). During the propagation of the ultrasound waves, the vacuum bubbles oscillate and grow until they reach a point when they cannot absorb more energy. At the peak of bubble growth they collapse violently, which causes locally thermal, mechanical, and chemical effects. The mechanical effects include high pressures of up to 1000atm, turbulences, and intense shear forces. Those forces disrupt cell walls and promote mass transfer between the cell interior and the solvent releasing bioactive compounds into the surrounding liquid (i.e. solvent).

Akustik yoki ultratovushli kavitatsiya: qabariq o'sishi va portlashi

Acoustic cavitation, generated by high-intensity, low-frequency ultrasound, creates intense shear forces and locally occurring high pressure and temperature differentials, which provide the necessary impact for cell disruption, intense mixing and mass transfer. These ultrasonic shear forces are successfully applied for cannabis extraction.

Ultrasonic extraction of compounds from botanicals and cell tissue has been well researched. The application of highly intense ultrasonic waves promotes extraction processes significantly. Besides process intensificationwhich results in higher yields and shorter extraction timethermal degradation and loss of temperature-sensitive constituents is prevented since sonication is non-thermal treatment. Furthermore, ultrasonic extraction has low investment and operational costs, reduces the use of solvents and/or allows for the use of greener solvents, which makes it an economical and environmental-friendly extraction technique. Outperforming conventional extraction methods, ultrasonically-assisted extraction (UAE) has been adopted from the food industry to produce bioactive compounds with economical gains.

Ultrasonic extraction is works by disrupting cell structures and promoting mass transfer. This working principle of ultrasound is used by Hielscher Ultrasonics equipment for highly efficient cannabis extraction.

Powerful ultrasound waves disrupt the cell matrix of biological structures and release the bioactive compounds. Mass transfer between the plant material and the solvent is intensified. Due to these mechanisms, ultrasonic extraction is highly efficient for cannabis extraction.


Astaxanthin is distinguished by a deep red colour. It is a fat-soluble pigment that is found in algae (e.g. Haematococcus pluvialis, Chlorella zofingiensis, Chlorococcum), yeast (e.g. Phaffia rhodozyma), salmon, trout, krill, shrimp and crayfish. Astaxanthin is considered a super-antioxidant since its antioxidative potency is ten to twenty times more powerful than of many other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and a hundred-times more powerful than alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E).
Astaxanthin (3,3′-dihydroxy-β, β′-carotene-4,4′-dione) is a keto-carotenoid and belongs to a larger class of chemical compounds known as terpenes (as a tetraterpenoid), which are composed of five carbon precursors, isopentenyl diphosphate, and dimethylallyl diphosphate. Astaxanthin is classified as a type of carotenoid compounds with oxygen-containing components, namely hydroxyl (-OH) or ketone (C=O), such as zeaxanthin and canthaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a metabolite of zeaxanthin and/or canthaxanthin, containing both hydroxyl and ketone functional groups. Like many carotenoids, astaxanthin is a lipid-soluble pigment and is distinguished by its red colour. Carotenoids including astaxanthin are well known for their antioxidative capacity.
Astaxanthin is a red pigment and naturally originates in the rainwater microalgae (Haematococcus pluvialis) and the yeast called Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous (also known as Phaffia rhodozyma). The algae undergoes a stressing via one or a combination of conditions ranging from the lack of nutrients, increased salinity, and excessive sunshine to create Astaxanthin. The species that consume those stressed freshwater microalgae, such as salmon, red trout, red sea bream, flamingo, crustaceans (e.g. shrimp, krill, crab, lobster, crayfish), reflect the pigmentation of the red-orange hues in their appearance.
As a supplement, astaxanthin is administered for its health-promoting and illness-treating effects. Astaxanthin is a well-established nutraceutical administered to improve skin heath (e.g. reduce wrinkles, damages by sun burn etc.).
Furthermore, astaxanthin gets increasing attention for its use to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cardio-vascular deaseses, high cholesterol, liver diseases, age-related macular degeneration, and preventing cancer.

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

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

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