The Value of Soft Matter to Formulation Science

Sarah Williamson

By Sarah Williamson

26 May 2016

Soft matter makes up the products we use every day. The Edinburgh Soft Matter group define soft matter as anything which can be easily deformed by thermal fluctuations and external forces” or in short all things squashy”. In consumer products they are in all major consumer goods categories, from foods such as ice creams, yogurt and spreads, to toiletries such as shampoos and face creams, to hardware products such as paints and polishes. They are ubiquitous in industry also, in lubricants, composites (which begin life as soft matter before they harden) and coatings.

Soft matter makes up a large part of CPI’s Formulation capability
A photo of a person working on a tableting press in a laboratory

For this reason, soft matter science is vital to formulators. The majority of formulated products are either soft matter in and of themselves, or begin life in this state and are later spray dried or granulated, or harden when they are applied such as coatings and composites. For this reason, soft matter makes up a large part of CPI’s Formulation capability and has been identified in collaboration with big industry as key in the portfolio of capability building projects.

CPI is working with multi-national formulators and UK academics
A photo of a person working on a tableting press in a laboratory

Of these capability building projects; projects which are being scoped and carried out hand-in-hand with multi-national formulators and UK academics, three of five are based around soft matter science.

Complex fluid stability and rheology

A project which will develop an integrated liquid stability prediction toolkit which is vital for formulators who have liquid or colloidal products which must remain stable until they meet the point of use. The aim is to enable the prediction of the stability of a product over time without the need for a trial and error approach to testing during the product development process, thereby saving time and materials and ultimately making the development of liquids and colloids more profitable.

Process analytical predictive tools for liquid formulators

A project designed to help formulators understand their process at a variety of scales, from 1L through to 1000L with the capability to plug and play sensors which will measure key physical attributes.

The aim is to enable formulators to better understand the process of manufacturing their product on a smaller scale than pilot scale, reducing the need to make large batches which can be costly to produce and dispose of if the end product is short of specification. The data capture from plug and play sensors will in turn enable future predictive design.

Advanced rheology toolkit for prediction and control

A project which will develop a toolset of innovative rheology methods, both for lab scale discovery and product optimisation, as well as for on-line manufacturing process control. 

As CPI looks to further build capability to enable companies develop and improve formulated products, it is certain that there will be considerable need for capability to further develop soft matter science with models for predictive design and smarter methods of product testing, and we intend to work ever closer with our academic partners who have soft matter and rheology expertise. 

Read more about CPI’s programme of capability building projects in Formulation… *

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