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Sonication can be used for the production of nanoparticles, such as nanoemulsions, nanocrystals, liposomes and wax emulsions, as well as for wastewater purification, degassing, extraction of seaweed polysaccharides and plant oil, extraction of anthocyanins and antioxidants, production of biofuels, crude oil desulphurization, cell disruption, polymer and epoxy processing, adhesive thinning, and many other processes. It is applied in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, water, food, ink, paint, coating, wood treatment, metalworking, nanocomposite, pesticide, fuel, wood product and many other industries.
Sonication can be used to speed dissolution, by breaking intermolecular interactions. It is especially useful when it is not possible to stir the sample, as with NMR tubes. It may also be used to provide the energy for certain chemical reactions to proceed. Sonication can be used to remove dissolved gases from liquids (degassing) by sonicating the liquid while it is under a vacuum. This is an alternative to the freeze-pump-thaw and sparging methods.
In biological applications, sonication may be sufficient to disrupt or deactivate a biological material. For example, sonication is often used to disrupt cell membranes and release cellular contents. This process is called sonoporation. Small unilamellar vesicles (SUVs) can be made by sonication of a dispersion of large multilamellar vesicles (LMVs). Sonication is also used to fragment molecules of DNA, in which the DNA subjected to brief periods of sonication is sheared into smaller fragments.
Sonication is commonly used in nanotechnology for evenly dispersing nanoparticles in liquids. Additionally, it is used to break up aggregates of micron-sized colloidal particles.
Sonication can also be used to initiate crystallisation processes and even control polymorphic crystallisations. It is used to intervene in anti-solvent precipitations (crystallisation) to aid mixing and isolate small crystals.
Sonication is the mechanism used in ultrasonic cleaning—loosening particles adhering to surfaces. In addition to laboratory science applications, sonicating baths have applications including cleaning objects such as spectacles and jewelry.
Sonication is used in food industry as well. Main applications are for dispersion to save expensive emulgators (mayonnaise) or to speed up filtration processes (vegetable oil etc.). Experiments with sonification for artificial ageing of liquors and other alcoholic beverages were conducted.
Soil samples are often subjected to ultrasound in order to break up soil aggregates; this allows the study of the different constituents of soil aggregates (especially soil organic matter) without subjecting them to harsh chemical treatment.
Sonication is also used to extract microfossils from rock.
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