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Acoustic levitator for enhanced process development of fluidized bed applications

Country of Origin: Germany
Reference Number: TODE20180528002
Publication Date: 31 May 2018


A German research institution has developed an acoustic levitator prototype for the contactless real-time observation of particles during spray drying and coating processes. An industrial partner from food, pharmaceutical, chemical sector, or suppliers of analytical tools and equipment for fluidized bed applications is sought for licensing, transfer of rights, contractual research projects, or R&D collaboration to further develop the technology.


Fluidized bed reactors are used to produce and to coat a multitude of granulates and particles specially for food and pharmaceutical applications. Process optimization in a fluidized bed reactor however is difficult, since only final results can be evaluated and observation of the process itself is technically challenging. 

Acoustic levitation is a powerful technique used to position and observe single particles during various coating and drying processes, hence it is suitable to simulate and optimize conditions of an fluidized bed reactor. This technique is based on a standing wave, generated between a sonotrode and a reflector as shown in the figure. At the nodes of the standing wave small pockets of low pressure exists which can be used to place sample particles of arbitrary shape in a contactless way. Particles can be positioned in a pressurized air stream, which enters the chamber through holes in the reflector. At the same time, a coating solution can be sprayed into the chamber by an ultrasonic nozzle.

A German research group has developed a prototype of an acoustic levitation system in which particles of arbitrary shape can be levitated. Spray drying conditions have been emulated while the process has been observed in real-time by shadowgraphy. Direct transfer of results from the acoustic levitator to real fluidized bed reactors is possible, as has been demonstrated by comparing samples from levitation and fluidized bed reactors. A patent has been filed for the embodiment of the prototype. Beyond coating and spray drying processes, this technique is of further relevance for the observation of chemical reactions.

The offered technology can be a valuable tool for process development in the food, pharmaceutical, and chemical industry. It could also become part of the portfolio of suppliers who provide analytical equipment and services. Therefore, a partner from these fields of application is sought for licensing, transfer of rights, contractual research projects, or a R&D collaboration to enhance the prototype towards possible integration into analytical devices. Contract development and manufacturing organizations (CMDO) might also benefit from a cooperation.

Advantages and Innovations

Cost reduction by shortening the time required for process development in fluidized bed applications. Only small amounts of resource are required.

More accurate tuning of process conditions, e.g. temperature or coating solution, due to real time single particle observation.

Stage Of Development

Prototype available for demonstration

Requested partner

An industrial partner from the food, pharmaceutical, or chemical sector is sought for licensing, transfer of rights (pending patent), or R&D collaboration.

R&D collaborations are also imaginable with manufacturers of fluidized bed equipment or process engineering companies who wish to expand or complement their portfolio of products and services in the long term.

CDMOs and original manufacturers especially from the pharmaceutical or chemical sector with interest in a contractual research agreement could use the prototype to test conditions for obtaining desired particle characteristics in a cost-efficient way before going to full scale.

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