Botanical Extraction

Terpene Extraction by Ultrasonics

Written by Derek Johnson

There are many techniques for extracting terpenes, each with its own advantages. Of them all, ultrasonic extraction (ultrasonics) offers many benefits, which is why it’s quickly becoming a preferred extraction method for botanicals including cannabis and hops.


What is Ultrasonic Extraction?

The very nature of ultrasonic extraction makes it an efficient and eco-friendly method of production. A solvent, water, or oil is used as a medium to hold the material meant to undergo extraction. Ultrasound extraction works with any solvent, including pressurized solvents like supercritical carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons like butane.

Ultrasonic extraction uses sound energy to create waves and vibrations greater than 20 kilohertz. These waves and vibrations are capable of agitating materials intended for extraction and can lead to superior terpene and cannabinoid extract yields. The method helps catalyze an extraction by deagglomerating biomass particles and reducing their size.

During the extraction, a process called cavitation takes place, which leads to the production of innumerable tiny bubbles that expand and implode rapidly and with great force. The energy generated is what destroys the cell walls of the material undergoing extraction, causing the desired compounds to flow more freely from the cells into the liquid or gel holding the source material.


Advantages of Ultrasonics for Terpene Extraction

Ultrasonics for terpene extraction can reduce costs and improve speed compared to other methods. It doesn’t need high-end equipment, and applying ultrasonics reduces the total energy used during extraction. Additionally, volumes of expensive solvents required for a given application can be reduced with this method as is the money needed to handle them correctly and safely.

One of the most attractive features of ultrasonics is the low-to-no heat needed to carry out the process. Other extraction methods that depend on heat face the real danger of degrading terpenes due to excessive temperatures. However, this is not the case with ultrasonic extraction, which is best carried out between 0-60 ºC.

Using their UPH100 (100 watts, 30 kHz), the company Hielscher demonstrated extraction of terpenes from hops in ethanol (placed in a beaker with ice water). These included β-caryophyllene oxide, α-caryophyllene, α-pinene, mycrene, limonene, and α-caryophylene (quantified using gas chromatography).

Ultrasonics is a relatively uncomplicated, efficient, and cost-effective way to extract terpenes from cannabis and other plants. It yields little-to-no chemical waste. It is an exceptional choice for terpene extractors looking for eco-friendly techniques and high yields.

Image Source: mtmmonline via Pixabay

About the author

Derek Johnson