The Engineer: Team plans faster production – The Engineer

Stephen Harris, 14 February 2012

Technology for more controlled drug delivery could be produced hundreds of times faster than with existing methods thanks to new research.

Scientists at Cambridge University have developed a faster process for manufacturing microcapsules — tiny spheres filled with drugs, pesticides or other substances — that also enables more precise control over when their contents are released.

The researchers have used microfluidics — where chemicals are combined in tiny sub-millimetre channels — to create droplets of a mixture that spontaneously assembles into capsules. These can then be broken down with light, heat or changes in pH.

‘Microfluidics has a very high frequency of generating those droplets and therefore capsules,’ PhD student Jing Zhang, lead author on the research, told The Engineer.

‘Currently I’ve only been doing a frequency of 300 to 3,000 droplets per second but it could go up to 100,000 droplets per second easily.’ Conventional methods produce around a couple of hundred microcapsules per second, she added.

Microcapsules are used to slowly release drugs inside the body, disperse pesticides over crops, add flavours or nutrients to food and even to release sealants in manufacturing processes.

The shell of the capsules either degrades over time or is broken down mechanically to release the contents. But the capsules produced through Cambridge’s method are more susceptible to other stimuli and so the release can be coordinated.

This could be particularly useful in manufacturing complex structures such as aircraft, where sealants usually need to be applied to parts one small area at a time to ensure a precise enough fit, said Zhang. ‘Potentially we could apply a signal and all the glue would be released in one go.’

The Engineer: Team plans faster production

The full report can be found in The Engineer.

The Food Navigator: One step microcapsules – The Food Navigator

Nathan Gray, 10-Feb-2012

An innovative new technology platform could provide manufacturers and food formulators with greater control and speed when producing encapsulated ingredients such as flavours and bioactive ingredients, say its developers.

The new technology – a single-step method for producing ‘smart’ microcapsules using fluid droplets – is said to have potential commercial applications in food, nutrition, and pharmaceuticals, among others. Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, and published in prestigious academic journal Science, the team behind the new technology promises that the ‘one-step’ microcapsules offer several advantages over currently used techniques.

Speaking with, Dr Oren Scherman from the department of chemistry at Cambridge explained that the fluid technology used by the new platforms means that microcapsules have little variation in terms of size, and are “highly reproducible and scalable.” “I think that the fundamental advance that we have taken is the ability to both formulate the capsule and encapsulate cargo in a single step, so all the molecules and components are dynamically assembled simultaneously,” said Scherman, who was one of several researchers from the University of Cambridge involved in the platform’s development.

“We have on demand capability for release, and you can also have whatever you want as far as capsule size, or cargo, all in a uniform structure,” he said, noting that he was sure that there was “a lot of opportunity within the food manufacturing and production domain.”

“Because it’s a platform technology, it has a lot of applicability to many diverse areas, and I think that is something we are keen to explore through contact current leaders in the field,” added the expert.

The Food Navigator: One step microcapsules

The full report can be found in The Food Navigator.

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