Centre for Innovative Manufacturing and Crystallisation

Project: Research council

Project Details


This proposal will establish a national multidisciplinary centre for research into crystals and powders and the challenges presented by their industrial manufacture, properties and use. Powders, particles, crystals and the molecules they are made of are important in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries as intermediate stages and final products in the manufacture of a range of materials from drugs to inks and pigments to paints to computer screens. Crucially, the structure and properties of crystals, particles and powders control the ease of manufacture, function and performance of the final product and it is therefore important to be able to make these materials reproducibly. Firstly, by understanding the ways in which the molecules, which make up the crystal pack together. Many molecules can adopt several distinct crystal forms by packing together in different ways, which can dramatically affect physical properties despite the fact the same molecule is present. It is vital to control this during crystal formation since the wrong form could for example, affect the amount of drug released by a tablet into the body after it is swallowed. Secondly as the crystal grows its size (micrometres or millimetres), shape, or morphology (flat or round) is critical for some applications especially when many crystal particles come together in a powder and impact on the ease with which the material is subsequently manufactured into a paint or ink for example. These challenges are critical as currently manufacturers struggle with crystal formation and control of their particle and powder properties due to the traditional batch methods they employ. To tackle these problems the Centre aims to revolutionise current processes by researching exciting new continuous methods of crystal formation and particle and powder production applicable to current but importantly also future products such as nanomaterials. In addition the Centre will explore how established methods for molecule synthesis are best integrated with continuous crystallisation processes and how continuously manufactured crystals are isolated, dried and transferred into subsequent formulation and final product manufacturing stages whilst preserving their carefully optimised properties. To maximize these technology changes the Centre must also understand the impact that such a transformation will have on the way companies approach this aspect of their business. This will ensure that the maximum economic potential is effectively exploited. To achieve this the Centre consists of a multidisciplinary team of 14 outstanding researchers from 7 leading Universities covering the country from Glasgow, to Edinburgh, to Cambridge, to Bath. In addition industrial support, interest and input (2 million) will be provided from 3 major pharmaceutical companies and many small technology driven companies within the UK. This provides a combination of academic and industrial expertise ranging from chemistry and chemical engineering to pharmacy and systems management capable of powerfully attacking the issues from many angles. The Centre's aim is to deliver new continuous manufacturing technologies with improved performance in a range of areas. Control of crystal formation and particle and powder properties is critical, however a key goal will also be the development of simpler and faster technologies. Such a combination will permit quicker product development and cheaper, cleaner and greener manufacturing processes. The Centre will deliver these technologies to the UK chemical and pharmaceutical industry thus maintaining this sector at the international forefront of product development and manufacture with obvious national economic benefits in terms of jobs and income. National and international benefits will also arise through better and new medicines and improved and new consumer products, which will assist the global community.
Effective start/end date1/10/1131/12/16

Collaborative partners

  • University of Bath (lead)
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Glasgow
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • AstraZeneca UK Ltd
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Pfizer
  • Fujifilm Imaging Colorants Ltd
  • Phoenix Chemicals Ltd
  • Genzyme Therapeutics Ltd
  • Croda International plc
  • British Salt
  • Solid Forms Solutions Ltd
  • NiTech Solutions Ltd


  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


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