Rapid formulation stability screening platform tests real-world use

Following two years of research by CPI at Imperial College London and the University of Durham, the project is now translating the academic work into real-world applications

The Microstar project team

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has partnered with P&G and BP to develop a rapid formulation stability screening platform. Following two years of research efforts by project partners at Imperial College London and the University of Durham, the project is now moving into the next phase where the academic work will be translated for use in real-world applications.

The independent technology innovation centre and founding member of the UK Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult is spearheading the Microstar project. The venture is developing a methodology and design specification for a testing platform encompassing a series of novel microfluidic chips that will allow rapid screening of formulation stability.

The science of formulation refers to the complex process of mixing ingredients together to make products including foods, medicines, cosmetics and detergents. The stability of a formulation has a significant effect on product performance, in particular, transportation and shelf life, and can be one of the key barriers to product innovation.

The stability of a formulation has a significant effect on product performance, in particular, transportation and shelf life

CPI is aiming to overcome this barrier by developing a stability screening platform at its National Formulation Centre in County Durham. This capability will be useful for two different approaches; as a high-throughput pass/fail stability screen, and as a route to in-depth mechanistic understanding. Standard industry testing can take up to a year; however, the Microstar project aims to radically cut this down to days or event hours, saving significant time, money and materials in product development.

The data and input from P&G and BP are crucial for validating the capability developed through the project. Currently, two prototype rigs have been developed – one at Imperial College London and the other at P&G in Newcastle.

Dr Richard Thompson, Durham University, said: “Working with our partners on this project has taken us into new territory, demanding innovative methods to find the stability limits of lubricants under extreme conditions. Understanding these processes enables cheap, rapid pre-screening, which is key to accelerating product development for challenging new environments.”

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