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Air classifier technology (ACT) is introduced as part of formulation integrated dry powder inhaler development (FIDPI) to optimise the de-agglomeration of inhalation powders. Carrier retention and de-agglomeration results obtained with a basic classifier concept are discussed. The theoretical cut-off diameter for lactose of the classifier used, is between 35 and 15 μm for flow rates ranging from 20 to 70 l/min. Carrier retention of narrow size fractions is higher than 80% for flow rates between 30 and 60 l/min, inhalation times up to 6 s and classifier payloads between 0 and 30 mg. The de-agglomeration efficiency for adhesive mixtures, derived from carrier residue (CR) measurement, increases both with increasing flow rate and inhalation time. At 30 l/min, 60% fine particle detachment can be obtained within 3 s circulation time, whereas at 60 l/min only 0.5 s is necessary to release more than 70%. More detailed information of the change of detachment rate within the first 0.5 s of inhalation is obtained from laser diffraction analysis (LDA) of the aerosol cloud. The experimental results can be explained with a novel force distribution concept (FDC) which is introduced to better understand the complex effects of mixing and inhalation parameters on the size distributions of adhesion and removal forces and their relevance to the de-agglomeration in the classifier.