Process Engineering

Process Engineering Cluster

While the shift from batch to continuous manufacturing remains topical in the pharmaceutical and other specialty sectors, fully continuous processing streams, from reaction to tablet, have yet to be realized. Advances in continuous upstream processes, such as flow chemistry, and continuous crystallization remain decoupled from advances in downstream formulation, and key limitations exist for both aspects. Moreover, there are limited suitable options available for continuous isolation and drying at pharmaceutical relevant scales and in pharmaceutical environments (containment, cleaning and ATEX). On the downstream side, continuous feeding of powders at low feed rates is challenging, and the exact mechanism of particle-particle interactions in some unit operations is not fully understood. On a broader perspective the mechanics of coupling unit operations together and coordinating inlet and outlet flows is not trivial, and there is currently a lack of mechanical and mathematical modelling expertise in this area. Process analytical technology and process modelling would be used to maximise process understanding and control process outputs.

Functional properties of materials depend on the processing of their building blocks that are often fluids such as solutions and melts, as well as on processing particulates and other solid materials. Here, several clusters are distinguished:

Fluids Processing deals mostly with processing precursors or building blocks of materials. This can range from micro-fluidics and high throughput systems among others (for analytical purposes) to macro-scale mixing, non-Newtonian rheology and flow, liquid-liquid systems and their emulsion stability and (testing of pharmaceuticals efficacy on) biological fluids (single and suspended cells).  Liquid-liquid systems, such as emulsions, are often encountered as in the pre-phase stage to mixing (precursors) of building blocks. In Bernal, novel use of liquid-liquid systems are also of interest as for instance integral energy, (solar) fuels and chemicals production.

Solids Processing deals with the kinetic processes of forming solid materials (such as crystallisation, spray drying, and precipitation) handling procedures (for powders, melts, slurries, etc.), up to equipment design, and the scale-up and testing at pilot scale.

Integrated / integral process development and modelling of a wide range of processes for relevant applications (currently pharma, food/dairy, metals, with future and adjacent sectors such as flavours/fragrances, solar and other renewable fuels) including development of sustainable and/or circular systems. We focus at use efficiency of materials, building blocks and energy.

The Process Engineering Domain builds on dedicated experimental equipment for testing and analysing analytics at small-to-mid (pilot) scales for an academic research and development environment.  These suite of professional equipment include spray dryers, crystallisation units, biologicals’ production and purification, microfluidics devices, pilot scale bubble column reactors with fluids flow analytics, high and low pressure/temperate chemicals conversions, and a range of advanced mass spectrometric devices.