International journal of pharmaceutics

Spheronization process particle kinematics determined by discrete element simulations and particle image velocimentry measurements.

PMID 25304094


Spheronization is an important pharmaceutical manufacturing technique to produce spherical agglomerates of 0.5-2mm diameter. These pellets have a narrow size distribution and a spherical shape. During the spheronization process, the extruded cylindrical strands break in short cylinders and evolve from a cylindrical to a spherical state by deformation and attrition/agglomeration mechanisms. Using the discrete element method, an integrated modeling-experimental framework is presented, that captures the particle motion during the spheronization process. Simulations were directly compared and validated against particle image velocimetry (PIV) experiments with monodisperse spherical and dry γ-Al2O3 particles. demonstrate a characteristic torus like flow pattern, with particle velocities about three times slower than the rotation speed of the friction plate. Five characteristic zones controlling the spheronization process are identified: Zone I, where particles undergo shear forces that favors attrition and contributes material to the agglomeration process; Zone II, where the static wall contributes to the mass exchange between particles; Zone III, where gravitational forces combined with particle motion induce particles to collide with the moving plate and re-enter Zone I; Zone IV, where a subpopulation of particles are ejected into the air when in contact with the friction plate structure; and Zone V where the low poloidal velocity favors a stagnant particle population and is entirely controlled by the batch size. These new insights in to the particle motion are leading to deeper process understanding, e.g., the effect of load and rotation speed to the pellet formation kinetics. This could be beneficial for the optimization of a manufacturing process as well as for the development of new formulations.