Contact: Dr. Juraj Sibik, Chemical Engineering
Complex mixtures are widespread in many industries, ranging from food production (for example chocolate spread), to cosmetics to laundry products to heavy petroleum oils which often form as waxes. In many of these it is important to be able to predict reliably the shelf-life of the products, to avoid wastage and the unnecessary disposal of usable products.

Over the past 5 years, the research team at Chemical Engineering has developed a new method for predicting the stability of amorphous drug compounds. Amorphous compounds have increased solubility when compared to more traditional types of drug formulations, but tend to crystallise over time, so their shelf-life can be difficult to predict.

The research team have well-established links and ongoing projects in place with the pharmaceutical industry and are now interested in whether there are other potential uses for their techniques.

Their method measures the movement of molecules in a material, and then uses this to assess various features of the material. Examples include the degree of crystallisation of an amorphous material, the degree of chemical bonding and phase separation in a mixture, and also monitoring phase behaviour of systems during freeze-drying, such as accurate determination of collapse, eutectic and glass transition temperature.

The challenge for the i-Team is to investigate the full range of possible applications for this approach, and to identify products and production lines that would benefit from the measurements that the researchers can carry out. By talking to industry experts, their task is to analyse and recommend the direction for the next phase of the group’s research, and ideally identify possible collaboration partners for this work.