The application of terahertz pulsed imaging in characterising density distribution of roll-compacted ribbons

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Graphical abstractRoll compaction is a commonly used dry granulation process in pharmaceutical, fine chemical and agrochemical industries for materials sensitive to heat or moisture. The ribbon density distribution plays an important role in controlling properties of granules (e.g. granule size distribution, porosity and strength). Accurate characterisation of ribbon density distribution is critical in process control and quality assurance. The terahertz imaging system has a great application potential in achieving this as the terahertz radiation has the ability to penetrate most of the pharmaceutical excipients and the refractive index reflects variations in density and chemical compositions. The aim of this study is to explore whether terahertz pulse imaging is a feasible technique for quantifying ribbon density distribution.Ribbons were made of two grades of microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), Avicel PH102 and DG, using a roll compactor at various process conditions and the ribbon density variation was investigated using terahertz imaging and section methods. The density variations obtained from both methods were compared to explore the reliability and accuracy of the terahertz imaging system. An average refractive index is calculated from the refractive index values in the frequency range between 0.5 and 1.5 THz. It is shown that the refractive index gradually decreases from the middle of the ribbon towards to the edges. Variations of density distribution across the width of the ribbons are also obtained using both the section method and the terahertz imaging system. It is found that the terahertz imaging results are in excellent agreement with that obtained using the section method, demonstrating that terahertz imaging is a feasible and rapid tool to characterise ribbon density distributions.

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