Laboratory Furnaces in Pharmaceutical R&D: Enhancing Drug Formulation Processes

28 June 2024 by
Laboratory Furnaces in Pharmaceutical R&D: Enhancing Drug Formulation Processes
Across International

In pharmaceutical research and development (R&D), every step requires meticulous attention to detail, from drug formulation to its final production. One of the critical elements in the process is temperature control, especially in laboratory settings where even the slightest change can have a significant effect. Laboratory furnaces play a crucial role in this aspect of pharmaceutical R&D with their advanced capabilities for maintaining temperature uniformity in drug formulation.

What Is a Drug Formula and How Does It Work?

A drug formula is a specific mix of active pharmaceutical substances (APIs) and other components called excipients. Formulations can be in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, injections, and inhalers, each specifically designed to enhance the delivery and effectiveness of drugs for specific administration routes (oral, intravenously, nasally, etc.).

The formulation process involves meticulous selection and manipulation of ingredients to achieve desired drug release profiles, stability, and bioavailability. After being administered, the drug formulation goes through various processes in the body.

How Are Laboratory Furnaces Used in Pharmaceuticals?

Laboratory furnaces play a crucial role in pharmaceutical R&D by providing controlled heating environments for a wide range of applications. Here’s how they enhance certain processes and steps in pharmaceuticals:

1. Granulation

Granulation is the process of making fine or coarse particles from large agglomerates called granules. This step in drug formulation improves the flowability, compressibility, and uniformity of the final dosage form. Laboratory furnaces are utilised in the granulation process to provide controlled heating for wet or dry granulation methods.

2. Drying

Drying processes eliminate moisture from wet granules, powders, or solutions, stabilising the product, enhancing its shelf life, and preventing microbial growth. With the precision of temperature control systems and customisable airflow of laboratory furnaces, drying pharmaceutical materials using different methods is possible.

3. Catalyst Activation

Catalyst activation is the process of preparing a catalyst to be used in a chemical reaction. Laboratory furnaces provide a controlled heating environment required to conduct various treatments, which commonly include calcination, reduction, annealing, and activation. These treatments are important for removing impurities, optimising surface properties, and enhancing catalytic activity.

Benefits of Laboratory Furnaces in Pharmaceutical Applications

Laboratory furnaces offer several benefits in pharmaceutical applications, which are critical for maintaining the quality, efficacy, and safety of pharmaceutical products.

1. Customisation and Flexibility

Laboratory furnaces are available in various types, such as muffle furnaces, tube furnaces, and vacuum furnaces. This variety of laboratory furnace solutions allows researchers to select the most appropriate and efficient setup for their specific application. Additionally, the advanced furnace technology of most units can help further enhance the efficiency of the operations.

2. Controlled and Precision Heating

With precise temperature control of laboratory furnaces, researchers can create specific heating profiles that meet their experiments’ requirements. This is crucial for studying the thermal behaviour of pharmaceutical compounds, including their melting points, decomposition temperatures, and reaction kinetics.

3. Process Optimisation

Furnaces enable researchers to experiment with various factors including temperature, heating rate, and reaction time. By experimenting with these factors, researchers can find the best conditions for maximising yield, purity, and efficiency in pharmaceutical manufacturing processing.

4. Material Characterisation

Laboratory furnaces are utilised to conduct different thermal analysis techniques. These methods offer valuable information on the thermal properties of pharmaceutical substances, such as phase transitions, thermal stability, as well as compatibility and interactions with other materials.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Key Features of Laboratory Furnace Products

Laboratory furnaces come in different types and models, each offering features tailored to specific applications. Here are some of them:

1. Muffle Furnaces

With their durable design, high-quality insulation, and efficient heating systems, muffle furnaces are ideal for providing a controlled and insulated environment for heating materials. This type of furnace is essential for experiments in which the amount of non-combustible and non-volatile content within a sample should be identified. Here are some muffle furnaces that can be used in pharmaceutical R&D processes:

1200°C 4.5L Compact Muffle Furnace w/ 30-Seg PID Control

  • Ideal for small-scale heating, such as for research laboratories
  • Can be easily placed inside a glove box
  • The 2022 design includes a safety feature that automatically shuts off when the door opens after the treatment

1200°C Muffle Furnace w/ Kanthal (Sweden) Heating Elements

  • Features Swedish Kanthal spiral wire coils and high-quality alumna fibre insulation
  • Comes with a built-in RS485 digital communications port and a USB adaptor which allows the unit to be connected to a computer for remote monitoring
  • Has a built-in ammeter and dual voltmetres for easy monitoring and troubleshooting

1400°C 40-Segment Muffle Furnace w/ PC Interface

  • Has silicon carbide (SiC) heating components embedded in Mitsubishi alumina fibre insulation
  • Features Eurotherm 3204 40-segment digital controller that allows for precise temperature control
  • Includes safety features with overheating and power failure protection
  • Has a built-in computer interface

 2. Tube Furnaces

Tube furnaces are a standard piece of equipment in many laboratories, used for a wide range of applications such as annealing, coating, drying, and more. The optimal heat distribution and thermal uniformity offered by tube furnaces make them ideal for processing sensitive thermal applications such as thermocouple calibration.

1200°C Laboratory Tube Furnaces

  • Can withstand high temperatures up to 1200°C for synthesis and purification processes
  • Comes in different types: split type, vertical tube, and vertical split quenching tube
  • Can be utilised for various thermal processes such as inorganic and organic purification, accelerated ageing, annealing, coating, drying, and more

1400-1500°C Laboratory Tube Furnace

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Features a self-tuning PID controller to optimise consistent thermal processing
  • Includes safety features that protect against overheating and power failure

1600°C-1800°C Laboratory Tube Furnace

  • Provides a controlled environment for materials synthesis, sintering, annealing, and thermal analysis
  • Compact, portable, and lightweight
  • Allows for multiple atmosphere processes in a single cycle
  • Features built-in ammeter and dual voltmetres for easy monitoring  and troubleshooting

1200-1500°C Laboratory Rotary Tube Furnace

  • Offers the benefits of a traditional tube furnace while also allowing the sample to be rotated, leading to enhanced heat transfer and more uniform heating
  • Its rotating mechanism ensures efficient mixing and homogeneity, enhancing processes like powder calcination, thermal decomposition, and continuous reactions

3. Vacuum Furnaces

Vacuum furnaces are built to endure extremely high temperatures of up to 1500°C. This makes them ideal for tasks such as brazing, sintering, and heat treatment. With vacuum furnaces, the contents inside can be heated and processed consistently and with low contamination.

1500°C Vacuum Furnace with Molybdenum Heating Elements

  • Mainly used in high-temperature atmosphere sintering, high-temperature vacuum sintering, transparent ceramics, and sintering of other materials
  • Applicable for non-polluting heat treatment of materials under vacuum or atmosphere protection

Case Study/Studies

  • Formulation of Drug Delivery Systems

Laboratory furnaces are commonly used in creating drug delivery systems. These are the methods by which the drugs are packaged to protect them from degradation and allow them to travel wherever they need to go in the body. With the use of laboratory furnaces, researchers can control temperature, heating rate, and agitation to enhance pharmaceutical formulation efficiency and achieve desired outcomes.1

  • Solid-State Drug Formulation

Furnaces are necessary for developing solid-state medications like tablets, capsules, and pellets. Hot melt extrusion, spray congealing, and granulation need accurate heating and cooling management to ensure consistent blending, particle size reduction, and solidification of drug-excipient mixtures. Furnaces are used to heat raw materials, facilitate chemical reactions, and induce phase transitions in solid-state formulations.2

  • Maximise Efficiency With Drug Development Technologies

Furnaces are innovative drug development equipment that have been indispensable in various laboratory settings. With laboratory furnaces, researchers can improve drug formulation by precisely controlling temperature, creating new compounds, perfecting solid-state formulations, and conducting quality control tests. As pharmaceutical research progresses, the importance of this equipment in promoting innovation and enhancement will continue to be essential.

Across International is a trusted name when it comes to top-of-the-range laboratory furnaces and other equipment. As an ISO 9001:2008-certified manufacturer, we ensure that all of our furnaces are also CE-certified so you can rest assured that you’re investing in products that are of high quality and meet safety standards.

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