I first heard of this piece of equipment from Ideas in Food. I was intrigued by what it can do. I saw that it can emulsify pretty much anything. It can also extract flavours in about 20 seconds. Unfortunately at the time, there was very little information about the SonicPrep elsewhere.

Fast forward a few months later, Toronto Food Lab purchased a SonicPrep, and I am glad to tell you that this is truly an amazing piece of machinery. I’d like to share my experience with it, as well as attempt to explain how it works.

So, in a nutshell, the SonicPrep works by causing cavitation. What is cavitation? Well, lets start from the very beginning, and that is the titanium-tipped metal rod that dips into the liquid. The rod vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies and can be controlled via control dial. Imagine the rod’s vibrations pushing and pulling the liquid. First, it pushes the liquid, then the rod pulls back. As the rod pulls back, the liquid is not able to keep up, and as a result, microscopic air bubbles are formed. These air bubbles are in a vacuum, so they want to implode. As they implode, the metal rod is already pushing back, further increasing the force with which the bubbles implode. The tiny implosions cause shockwaves in the mixture. These shockwaves are what disrupt the liquid, causing emulsions and flavour extractions. So cavitation, then, is the formation of air bubbles that implode causing shockwaves within the mixture.

According to PolyScience, the SonicPrep can emulsify, extract flavour, infuse flavour, and intensify flavour, degas, and homogenize. Just those things alone can lead a chef’s brains to go berserk with all the ideas and possibilities. From my personal experience with the equipment, those claims are quite true. Though, I cannot comment on the homogenizing since I haven’t done work that explores that ability.

Here’s a quick snippet of canola oil being emulsified. Note, there are no stabilizers or thickeners involved in this particular mixture. Isn’t that crazy?! And its Heat stable to boot!

This is coffee being aerated with the finest bubbles. This is just plain coffee, no milk or cream. Other than the visual change, the texture  became slightly velvety.

These are the main components:

1. Converter – The box on the bottom right side with all the knobs. This is what converts the the electric current into a higher frequency

2. Sound box – The sound insulating cage with the clear door. Without this, your ears will hate you. Even with the box, I still need to wear ear plugs. It’s not painful, just uncomfortable.

3. Ultrasonic horn – The metal cylinder and metal rod on top of the sound box. This is where the electric current turns into vibrations. Usually this is done with a quartz crystal. They use quartz because the crystal expands and contracts as you pass an electric current through it. The high frequency of alternating current is what causes the ultrasonic vibrations.

4. Mini Thor – Keeps watch of all those who test the machine. The MOST important component.

And that is the SonicPrep!

Link to the SonicPrep webpage from PolyScience.

Some additional images.



3 responses to “SonicPrep, aka sonic emulsifier, ultrasonic cell disruptor. I like to call it the magic metal rod.”

  1. […] May 28, 2012 If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed. Thanks for visiting! ultrasonic homogenization via the Toronto Food Lab. Click image for full […]

  2. Bev Gun-Munro Avatar

    Would it help to create a Coconut Oil Gel somehow? I’m trying to create this, but the Coconut Oil solidifies into a ‘waxy’ texture, and separates when I mix it with Vegetable Glycerin. Can’t figure out how to make a Coconut Gel texture product. Call me: 818.300.4616.
    How much would this machine cost?

    1. torontofoodlab Avatar

      I think you’d have to find a stronger emulsifier and also tweak the water/oil ratio. For most intents and purposes, a Vitamix blender is already quite good at emulsification. The SonicPrep costs about $5,000 US.

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