A new microfabrication project

A development project for a scalable platform dedicated to the industrial formulation of innovative encapsulated products under continuous flow conditions.

The Interreg In Flow project has just been launched. The project will last 3 years and brings together the following partners: Sirris, ULiège (coordinator), Maastricht University and DWI Leibniz Institute.
Its aim is the study of new encapsulation formulations and techniques for fast and inexpensive packaging of medicines or cosmetics.

The In Flow project

Nowadays, many formulations for wellbeing and healthcare are composed of active ingredients (perfumes, vitamins, medicines, insecticides, etc.) encapsulated in a support material to form particles of 50 nm to 500 μm.
The role of this enrobing process is to protect the active ingredients, increase their solubility and monitor their delivery. Two avenues are exploitable: an organic process with degradable polymers and an inorganic process with mesoporous silica.

Effective materials are available but it is necessary to develop formulations tools that must be able to be industrialised.
The best route is to integrate the synthesis of monomers, the synthesis of support materials and formulation with active ingredients into a continuous-flow process within a scalable platform.

A steering committee composed of industrialists is monitoring the project and defines the demonstrators. At the end of 3 years, 3 open pilot units will be developed and validated on the basis of 2 end products (production at a kg scale).

Why continuous-flow working rather than batch working?

Present-day technologies are implemented through batch working. But the energy costs are often high (heat and mass transfer, inspection devices, etc.), the waste generated is sometimes much greater than the synthesised products and there are considerable quantities of consumed reagents. Furthermore, some reactions cannot quite simply be adapted on an industrial scale, because of the technical limitations imposed by batch systems.
Consequently, the scaling-up methodology consisting of taking up reactions developed in a laboratory to adapt them on a production scale is sometimes not an effective solution.

By contrast, microfluidics, which is based on the manipulation and the control of fluids in small volumes but in a continuous flow, ensures constant quality of phenomena, very short interaction times, low reaction volumes, accurate monitoring of conditions combined with energy and resource savings. In addition, this approach offers the possibility of parallelising reactors and using a numbering-up strategy. Consequently, what has been validated in a module will work in 1,000 or 10,000 with no new effects. The transition from the R&D stage to mass-production is therefore no longer a problem.

Sirris’ contribution

In the In Flow project, Sirris is involved in the implementation of the open technology platform. It will ensure the design and the production of the reactors and functional elements.
It will implement its resources to design the systems, to define the geometries of the components, to manufacture the constituents with state-of-the-art micromachining and microassembly technologies, etc.

In many developments, chemists have to adapt their reactions to the equipment available; in this case, the methodology is inverted: Sirris takes charge of adapting the hardware to their needs.

Applications

The first application of the methodologies that will be developed in this project is the creation of new high-potential products for SMEs operating in cosmetic, nutraceutical, pharmaceutical  or other industries.

Any company concerned by encapsulation and interested by the project can get in touch with the consortium to know more about it.

The In Flow project is being carried out within the context of the Interreg V Euregio Meuse-Rhine programme, with EUR 2,1 million coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). With the investment of EU funds in Interreg projects, the European Union directly invests in economic development, innovation, territorial development, social inclusion and education in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine.

 

(Source picture above: Sirris + ULiège-CITOS)