Ultrasonic Liquid Processors: Operational Tips to Ensure Optimum Performance
Posted: Aug 19, 2014
High intensity ultrasonication plays a vital role in a variety of markets ranging from laboratory research and biotechnology, to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. In many applications, including emulsification, dispersion, homogenisation, and blending, ultrasonic liquid processor systems have become industry standard. The main components that make up the ultrasonicator system include a generator (ultrasonic power supply), a transducer (piezoelectric converter), and a probe. Depending on the application and the sample volume to be processed, a variety of accessories can be used in combination with the above prerequisite components for sonication. These include replacement tips for standard probes, boosters, microtips, sound enclosures, and flowcells, amongst others.
To ensure smooth, effective, and long-term operation, your ultrasonic liquid processor requires scheduled inspection and review. Whilst the detailed maintenance schedule can change according to your system’s installation complexity and application, outlined below are some valuable tips that contribute to its operational success:
Inspect Corrosion in Metal Parts
Components, including transducers, probes, and boosters are metallic in nature and get corroded with continuous exposure to acids and caustics during sonication. It is advisable to visually inspect these components for any indication of rust or discolouration. When discolouration occurs, move the ultrasonicator away from the source of corrosion, usually acidic or caustic liquids.
Regularly Clean Generator, Converter, Horn, and Tip
Scheduled cleaning is a key to make these components function at optimum levels. Always clean the generator and converter using a non-acidic cleaning solution as using acidic solution may lead to corrosion. As far as the horn is concerned, it can be either cleaned using isopropyl alcohol or sterilised in an autoclave. Since probe tips come in direct contact with the liquid being processed, they sometime collect residue. As a result, it is advisable to place the tip in water or alcohol and switch the power on.
Check High-Voltage Cables
The cable that runs from the generator into the transducer is a high-voltage cable. Operators should regularly check this wire for insulation damage, wear, burnout from excess heat, and breakage from extended use. Strictly avoid using cable with worn out insulation or one which is broken as it poses an electric shock hazard.
Avoid Mishandling Cable Assembly
During regular use, avoid using the cable assembly to bring the transducer close to the generator assembly. Pulling the cable assembly will result in increased tension and cause breakage after repeating this several times.
Review Probes and Microtips for Wear and Tear
The probes and microtips are subjected to high stress during cavitation cycles. As a result, the operators should take care not to keep the horn assembly away from anything but the liquid being processed. Even the tips tend to get eroded after certain number of cycles of intense sonication. If these eroded tips are continued in use, the efficiency of sonication decreases as the power transmitted into the sample shrinks. For this reason, when horns and tips undergo excessive erosion, they should be promptly replaced with new ones.
Paresh Shah is a Director at Life-Care Equipments Pvt. Ltd., a leading manufacturer and distributor of a wide range of ultrasonic cleaning systems.