Synthesizing Amorphous Pharmaceuticals Using Containerless Processing

Stage: Prototype

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have created a process by which amorphous and nanophase pharmaceutical compounds can be synthesized without the use of a container, thus avoiding potential contamination. The process involves acoustic levitation—that is, a technique in which an object is suspended through pressure created by intense sound waves—to form molecular gels and amorphous solids. The method is expected to help pharmaceutical manufacturers create drugs that dissolve more quickly on delivery.

The containerless method involves the use of a levitator, a chamber in which objects can be suspended through sound-wave pressure. Argonne scientists developed two protocols using this technique on several over-the-counter and prescription medicines. In the first method, the team dissolved such drugs as ibuprofen and the antibiotic clofoctol in ethanol, and then allowed droplets of the solution to evaporate while suspended in the levitator. In the second method, researchers used a laser to melt the antihistamine cinnarizine into droplets and suspend them as they cooled. 

Applications and Industries

?   Pharmaceutical industry


A significant benefit offered by this process is that it does not use a container, since one cause of crystallinity in the manufacture of glassy drugs is heterogeneous nucleation caused by the interaction of the liquid with its container. Once perfected, this process is expected to advance the development of bulk amorphous drug forms, which are becoming increasingly important due to the emergence of new drugs that are virtually insoluble in their crystalline form.