A study of the effectiveness and energy efficiency of ultrasonic emulsification
Three essential experimental parameters in the ultrasonic emulsification process, namely sonication time, acoustic amplitude and processing volume, were individually investigated, theoretically and experimentally, and correlated to the emulsion droplet sizes produced. The results showed that with a decrease in droplet size, two kinetic regions can be separately correlated prior to reaching a steady state droplet size: a fast size reduction region and a steady state transition region. In the fast size reduction region, the power input and sonication time could be correlated to the volume-mean diameter by a power-law relationship, with separate power-law indices of −1.4 and −1.1, respectively. A proportional relationship was found between droplet size and processing volume. The effectiveness and energy efficiency of droplet size reduction was compared between ultrasound and high-pressure homogenisation (HPH) based on both the effective power delivered to the emulsion and the total electric power consumed. Sonication could produce emulsions across a broad range of sizes, while high-pressure homogenisation was able to produce emulsions at the smaller end of the range. For ultrasonication, the energy efficiency was higher at increased power inputs due to more effective droplet breakage at high ultrasound intensities. For HPH the consumed energy efficiency was improved by operating at higher pressures for fewer passes. At the laboratory scale, the ultrasound system required less electrical power than HPH to produce an emulsion of comparable droplet size. The energy efficiency of HPH is greatly improved at large scale, which may also be true for larger scale ultrasonic reactors.