In situ and non-invasive detection of solute crystallization during freeze-drying would facilitate cycle optimization and scale-up from the laboratory to commercial manufacturing scale. The objective of the study is to evaluate heat flux sensor (HFS) as a tool for monitoring solute crystallization and other first-order phase transitions (e.g., onset of freezing). HFS is a thin-film differential thermopile, which acts as a transducer to generate an electrical signal proportional to the total heat applied to its surface. In this study, HFS is used to detect both primary (ice formation) and secondary (also known as eutectic) solute + water crystallization during cooling and heating of solutions in a freeze-dryer. Binary water-solute mixtures with typical excipients concentrations (e.g., 0.9% of NaCl and 5% mannitol) and fill volumes (1 to 3 ml/vial) are studied. Secondary crystallization is detected by the HFS during cooling in all experiments with NaCl solutions, whereas timing of mannitol crystallization depends on the cooling conditions. In particular, mannitol crystallization takes place during cooling, if the cooling rate is lower than the critical value. On the other hand, if the cooling rate exceeds the critical cooling rate, mannitol crystallization during cooling is prevented, and crystallization occurs during subsequent warming or annealing. It is also observed that, while controlled ice nucleation allows initiation of the primary freezing event in different vials simultaneously, there is a noticeable vial-to-vial difference in the timing of secondary crystallization. The HFS could be a valuable process monitoring tool for non-invasive detection of various crystallization events during freeze-drying manufacturing.
lyophilization solute crystallization mannitol process analytical technology annealing NaCl
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We thank Brian Ivin, Adrian Marley, and Kieran Joyce for an expert assistance in preliminary experiments with HFS, and TN Thompson for supporting the study and reviewing the manuscript.
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