Preparation of spray dried submicron particles: Part B – Particle recovery by electrostatic precipitation

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The low bioavailability of poorly water-soluble drugs is currently one of the major focuses of pharmaceutical research. One strategy currently being investigated to overcome this limitation is to decrease the particle size of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). An innovative process for this is spray drying with spray conditioning, which can produce submicron particles. One challenge resulting from this process is the recovery of these dispersed particles from a gas flow. Electrostatic precipitation is a common technique for air purification purposes, but an adapted electrostatic precipitator (ESP) design is necessary to achieve high collection efficiencies.

The ESP design in this work uses the precipitation method of Penney filters which separates charging and collection into two stages. The ESP dimensions depend on various assumptions and simplifications. Several experiments were conducted to assess the performance of the ESP and characterize its behaviour in long-term tests. The crucial parameters in the charging process are the residence time as well as the operating voltage. These constraints were examined to enhance the collection efficiency. Based on these tests it was possible to determine a suitable charging length as well as the dimensions of the collection stage.

In conclusion, an ESP customized for collecting particles in the range of 0.1–1μm was designed, built and tested, and collection efficiencies higher than 99% were achieved for submicron particle size distributions. For a robust process continuous cleaning of the charging stage is necessary.

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