Science Technology
Sonicator upgrade

sonicatorseanragan.jpg

Sean Ragan writes:

Working in a chemistry lab will spoil you to the use of certain tools. An ultrasound bath is one of them. While a proper laboratory sonicator is a fairly pricey piece of equipment, by amateur standards, there are ultrasonic cleaners designed, marketed, and priced for the home market. They are primarily intended for cleaning jewelry, spectacles, and other small parts. The cheapest one I’ve found is manufactured by “Chicago Electric,” a Chinese manufacturing concern, and sold through Harbor Freight. This model, unfortunately, is not equipped with a timer, and as manufactured it will only run for 3-minute cycles: You push the button, you get three minutes of ultrasound. If you want more than that, you have to come back at the end of three minutes and push the button again. This in stark contrast to my old laboratory sonicator, which featured a timer switch that would run the bath for as long as an hour without supervision. So I modified my home sonicator, first by opening the control panel and soldering the start button closed. As shown in the picture, the timer switch is mounted in an expedient plastic case. I’ve run the sonicator for the timer’s maximum period of one hour many times with no problems whatsoever. I’m obliged to disclaim, however, that this device was not intended to run continuously for that long and it may not be smart to wander very far away while it’s in operation.

6 thoughts on “Sonicator upgrade

  1. We have these also in my lab and they are wonderful. One piece of instruction from the operating manual deals with keeping the water bath filled one inch from the top and never letting anything else besides the basket which sits inside the bath come in contact with the sidewalls. Either of these actions will shorten the lifetime of the ultrasonic transducers. I imagine the same would be as hinted in the post for running this too long. Maybe a simple solution would be some sort of passive cooling for the tranducers.

  2. Any way of chucking a piece of dry ice at it for cooling? Maybe operate it in a bigger bucket with a chunk of dry ice above it?

  3. I suspect that the 3-minute limit is more to keep the cleaner from shaking apart any fragile jewelry, rather than the duty cycle of the parts inside the cleaner.

    Just an opinion of course.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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