Pan coating

The pan coating process, widely used in the pharmaceutical industry, is among the oldest industrial procedures for forming small, coated particles or tablets. The coating solution is applied as atomized spray to the solid core material in the coating pan. To remove the coating solvent warm air is passed over the coated material. By using this technique larger sized particles will be coated effectively.

Air-Suspension Coating

Air-suspension coating of particles by solutions or melts gives better control and flexibility. The particles are coated while suspended in an upward-moving air stream. They are supported by a perforated plate having different patterns of holes inside and outside a cylindrical insert. Just sufficient air is permitted to rise through the outer annular space to fluidize the settling particles. Most of the rising air (usually heated) flows inside the cylinder, causing the particles to rise rapidly. At the top, as the air stream diverges and slows, they settle back onto the outer bed and move downward to repeat the cycle. The particles pass through the inner cylinder many times in a few minutes.

Centrifugal Extrusion

Centrifugal extrusion processes generally produce capsules of a larger size, from 250 microns up to a few millimeters in diameter. Liquids are encapsulated using arotating extrusion head containing concentric nozzles. In this process, a jet of core liquid is surrounded by a sheath of wall solution or melt. As the jet moves through the air it breaks, owing to Rayleigh instability, into droplets of core, each coated with the wall solution. While the droplets are in flight, a molten wall may be hardened or a solvent may be evaporated from the wall solution. Since most of the droplets are within ± 10% of the mean diameter, they land in a narrow ring around the spray nozzle. Hence, if needed, the capsules can be hardened after formation by catching them in a ring-shaped hardening bath. This process is excellent for forming particles 400-2,000 µm (16-79 mils) in diameter. Since the drops are formed by the breakup of a liquid jet, the process is only suitable for liquid or slurry. A high production rate can be achieved, i.e., up to 22.5 kg (50 lb) of microcapsules can be produced per nozzle per hour per head.

Vibrational Nozzle

Core-Shell encapsulation or Micro granulation (matrix-encapsulation) can be done using a laminar flow through a nozzle and an additional vibration of the nozzle or the liquid. The vibration has to be done in resonance of the Rayleigh instability and leads to very uniform droplets. The liquid can consists of any liquids to work), e.g. solutions, emulsions, suspensions, melts etc. The solidification can be done according to the used gelation system with an internal gelation (e.g. sol-gel processing, melt) or an external (additional binder system, e.g. in a slurry). The process works very well for generating droplets between 100-5,000 µm (3.9-200 mils), applications for smaller and larger droplets are known. with capacities of 1-10,000 kg per hour (2-22,000 lb/h) at working temperatures of 20-1,500°C (68-2,700°F) (room temperature up to molten silicon). Nozzles heads are available from one up to several hundred thousand are available.


Microencapsulation by spray-drying is a low-cost commercial process which is mostly used for the encapsulation of fragrances, oils and flavours. An emulsion is prepared by dispersing the core material, usually an oil or active ingredient immiscible with water, into a concentrated solution of wall material until the desired size of oil droplets are attained. The resultant emulsion is atomized into a spray of droplets by pumping the slurry through a rotating disc into the heated compartment of a spray drier. There the water portion of the emulsion is evaporated, yielding dried capsules of variable shape containing scattered drops of core material. The capsules are collected through continuous discharge from the spray drying chamber. This method can also be used to dry small microencapsulated materials from an aqueous slurry that are produced by chemical methods.

Schematic illustrating the process of micro-encapsulation by spray-drying

Spray congealing can be done by spray drying equipment where protective coating will be applied as a melt. Core material is dispersed in a coating material melt rather than a coating solution. Coating solidification is accomplished by spraying the hot mixture into cool air stream. Waxes, fatty acids, and alcohols, polymers which are solids at room temperature but meltable at reasonable temperature are applicable to spray congealing.

Fluidized-Bed Technology

The liquid coating is sprayed onto the particles and the rapid evaporation helps in the formation of an outer layer on the particles. The thickness and formulations of the coating can be obtained as desired.

In the top spray system the coating material is sprayed downwards on to the fluid bed such that as the solid or porous particles move to the coating region they become encapsulated. Increased encapsulation efficiency and the prevention of cluster formation is achieved by opposing f lows of the coating materials and the particles. Dripping of the coated particles depends on the formulation of the coating material. Top spray fluid-bed coaters produce highest yields of encapsulated particles.

The bottom spray technique uses a coating chamber that has a cylindrical nozzle and a perforated bottom plate. The cylindrical nozzle is used for spraying the coating material. As the particles move upwards through the perforated bottom plate and pass the nozzle area, they are encapsulated by the coating material. The coating material adheres to the particle surface by evaporation of the solvent or cooling of the encapsulated particle. This process is continued until the desired thickness and weight is obtained. Although it is a time consuming process, the multilayer coating procedure helps in reducing particle defects.

The tangential spray consists of a rotating disc at the bottom of the coating chamber, with the same diameter as the chamber. During the process the disc is raised to create a gap between the edge of the chamber and the disc. The tangential nozzle is placed above the rotating disc through which the coating material is released. The particles move through the gap into the spraying zone and are encapsulated. As they travel a minimum distance there is a higher yield of encapsulated particles.

Schematics of a fluid-bed coater. (a) Top spray; (b) bottom spray; (c) tangential spray

Solvent evaporation 

The coating material is dissolved in a volatile solvent, which is immiscible with the liquid manufacturing vehicle phase. A core material to be encapsulated to be dissolved or dispersed in the coating polymer solution. This mixture is added to the liquid manufacturing vehicle phase with agitation, the mixture is heated to evaporate the solvent for polymer. Here the coat material shrinks around the core material and encapsulate the core. Microspheres of 5-fluorouracil have been prepared, using three grades of ethyl cellulose as wall forming materials, and utilizing a solvent evaporation technique under ambient conditions.

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