Institute of Process Research and Development

Case Studies

Over fifty years combined experience in working in the chemical industries and a dedicated £5M process research facility.

iPRD chemists and engineers are ideally placed to help industrial partners solve manufacturing problems and identify opportunities for cost reduction in a diverse range of areas. iPRD have already worked with over forty companies from a variety of industries including pharmaceutical, agrochemical, personal care and construction to improve their products and process and are keen to build links with companies across the chemistry and chemistry-using sectors. Examples of our previous industrial collaborations include:

Case study 1: Reducing the waste

The problem:

Our client, a Yorkshire-based company, had an established manufacturing route towards photovoltaic cell components, which they had operated on kilogram scale. There were a number of issues with the process including poor efficiency (50-60% input materials were not converted to product), large amounts of mixed metal waste, leading to high disposal coasts and formation of a malodorous by-product. They required a new process with improved efficiency, cost and environmental performance.

The solution:

iPRD carried out a detailed review of the literature to generate three possible alternative routes, guided by our clients priorities. We then undertook the process development and scale-up to manufacture 3.5 kg of high spec. product. The final process saw >99% input material converted to product with a 10-fold reduction in metal waste and completely eliminated the toxic by-product.

Case study 2: From batch to flow

The problem:

Our client, an Oxford-based SME, had a nutraceutical product in human trials and required a process to deliver first kilos then tonne quantities of product for commercial manufacture. However, they had no process development experience or facilities. The initial manufacturing process was a 5-day batch process with extended reaction times leading to the formation of by-products and manual handling issues associated with a heterogeneous catalyst.

The solution:

iPRD were asked to develop a manufacturing process for this product. Using TSB funding we developed a continuous process using a custom rig built in the iPRD lab. This reduced the reaction time to 20 minutes, thereby decreasing major by-product formation. Furthermore, exposure of the operator to the catalyst was reduced. We were then able to deliver 100 L manufactured product to the client.

Case study 3: Avoiding going through the mill

The problem:

In the primary manufacture of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, the products are typically isolated as large crystals of variable sizes. A secondary manufacturing process of milling, grinding and micronisation is therefore required to process crystals before formulation. This secondary manufacture is energy intensive and wasteful. Our clients, a collaboration of multinational chemical companies wanted to investigate ways to avoid this secondary manufacture.

The solution:

iPRD was asked to investigate the effects of crystal growth modifiers on the control of crystal size. We developed a responsive system which allowed fine control of crystal size and distribution and eliminated the requirement for secondary manufacture, thus saving money and time. The technology we developed was successfully applied in the pilot plant of our client. 

Case study 4: First large scale manufacture of a natural skincare product

The problem:

Our client, a Yorkshire-based start-up company, had an exciting new skincare product which had positive feedback from challenge and stability testing. They required a large batch for further trials but had no in-house capabilities to prepare this. Previous trials had also identified issues during the addition of a gelling agent.

The solution:

iPRD conducted a risk assessment of the manufacturing process to identify any issues prior to scale-up and two weeks of exploratory work, especially focussing on agitation and solid addition of the gelling agent, to ensure successful manufacture. We then manufactured two 20 kg batches to customer specifications in time to enable distribution of free product samples during the Christmas shopping period. You can read more about this here.

Case study 5: Avoiding genotoxic reagents

The problem:

Our client required a new route towards a secondary amine. The traditional method that had been used previously involved genotoxic alkylating agents, over-reaction, the use of additives and generated halogenated waste. These resulted in additional costs due to the analytical and regulatory burdens, loss of the desired product and disposal costs.

The solution:

iPRD developed an alternative method for amine alkylation using a different alkylating agent that not only avoided the genotoxic reagent but also eliminated the expensive halogenated waste. In addition, the process we developed was catalytic which eliminated the requirement for additives and allowed the reactions to be tuned by solvent selection. By immobilising the catalyst, recycling and recovery of the catalyst could be carried out to give a highly efficient process with high conversions.