Regardless of the product, it still holds true that the customer is king! In today’s world of fast tech, greater empowerment and increased knowledge, customer demands are ever-changing.
Not only do customers want a plethora of choice, but they also want products quickly, with global access, and of course at low cost. We can see this clearly in the consumer products market with shelves full of different ranges to pander to changing customer trends and consumption methods. All of this has an impact on the formulations industry, so it’s not surprising that globally this is now worth $1000 billion1, with the UK market valued at £180 billion per annum2.
According to Deloitte3, there is a growing gap between consumer expectations of products and services and the ability of businesses to meet them.1 Many sectors such as automotive, are challenged with balancing performance against cost and environmental impact, whereas the food, consumer goods market, and even the pharma industry, are working towards greater personification of goods, to ensure a positive customer experience.
Also let’s not forget sustainability – the drive for more sustainably4 and ethically produced products has spread across the whole consumer goods spectrum, including packaging and raw ingredients.
Changes in formulation to accommodate these demands can make a huge difference to the way products behave, their shelf life and ultimately their cost.
The ability to address changing customer needs and consumption is key to the success of many brands, but to do so requires valuable insight to develop new and improved products. This requires a good understanding of a product, at a molecular level, to determine how different formulations behave when changes are applied, and across different manufacturing environments. That’s where Diamond’s advanced characterisation facilities can help.
The analytical techniques at Diamond can uncover intricate details of the microstructure, chemistry and behaviour of formulations or manufacturing or end use processes. These techniques are beyond what is generally achievable in a home laboratory in terms of speed, resolution or sensitivity so are ideal for seemingly intractable research problems.
The analytical capabilities at Diamond cover three main classes of techniques: diffraction techniques which provide information about structural information (down to the molecular level), spectroscopic techniques which provide information about chemistry with high chemical specificity and sensitivity (measurements possible at ppm levels) and imaging techniques which provide options for direct and non-destructive visualisation of the sample available at high resolution and high speed, ideal for investigating dynamic processes.
Case study: Porton Biopharma biopharmaceuticals
Medicinal products extracted from biological sources, called biopharmaceuticals or biologics, must be carefully produced to ensure that only high purity active material is generated. Biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes can have an impact on the amount of product-related variants in the final clinical material. Understanding and controlling amounts of these product-related variants is a major challenge in the development of biopharmaceutical products.
Scientists from Porton Biopharma made use of the Diamond small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) data collection and analysis service to characterise the product variant. This highly-sensitive technique allowed Porton Biopharma to analyse the variant in solution and provide reassurance to regulatory bodies that the subtle changes did not hinder the activity of the drug.
Case study: Infineum oil additives
The “freezing” of diesel fuel in winter has been a problem since its inception. Wax crystals nucleate and grow and block fuel lines and filters which can lead to vehicle failures and motorists being stranded. Additives are used to control these crystals but, over recent years, the use of biofuels (fatty acid methyl esters) within diesel blends has become increasingly common. Conventional fuel additives, aimed at preventing crystallisation problems in such conventional fuel + biofuel mixtures, often have difficulty in treating all fuel types. Scientists at Infineum work to develop new fuel additives to prevent diesel engines from failing during cold temperatures. The additives are aimed at affecting both nucleation and the control of crystal growth of the conventional and biofuel components.
Infineum scientists have used a range of advanced characterisation tools at Diamond to gain a deeper understanding of the crystallisation processes in biofuels. Small angle X-ray scattering data collected on beamline I22 has been used to understand the nucleation mechanism. X-ray powder diffraction has been performed using the high time resolution measurements achievable on I11 to follow the evolution of the structure of the wax crystals formed during cooling of the fuel. The structure of the wax crystals formed was then determined using single crystal techniques on beamline I19. The combination of techniques allowed Infineum to gain a deep understanding of the processes occurring on different length- and time-scales during the crystallisation of the waxes. Any of the analytical methods used in isolation would not have been useful for disentangling the various phenomena but, by using a combination of methods, the results are being used to direct Infineum’s present and future additive modifier design.
Case study: Unilever ice-cream
X-ray imaging at Diamond has been used extensively by Unilever to explore the microstructure of ice cream5. The quality of ice cream is considered to depend on the size of constituent air cells and ice crystals, the smaller and rounder the better. Product quality and shelf life can be strongly affected by the temperature variations that can commonly occur during storage and distribution, including by the end consumer where a significant number of the overall freeze-thaw “abuse” cycles take place. Ice cream is a complex multi-phase soft solid material that consists of ice, air, fat and sugar, containing three states of matter; gas; liquid and solid. An understanding of how the freeze-thaw cycle can influence ice formation is important in controlling ice cream microstructure. The crystal size is small, the material is opaque and the structure easily disturbed by the modification required by most analytical methods, all creating challenges for detailed microstructural analysis.
The team from The University of Manchester and Unilever performed X-ray tomography of the ice cream microstructure over temperature cycles from -20°C to -7°C using instrument I13-2 at Diamond. This instrument provides high flux X-rays tuned to provide both high temporal and spatial resolution to allow 4D in-line phase contrast imaging to be performed. These non-invasive experiments allowed Unilever scientists to investigate the 3D microstructure while largely maintaining the natural product environment and provided a greater understanding of the mechanism of ice formation. The results are important to aid determining the influence of processing conditions during manufacture and also to inform the development of formulations.
Supporting all of these state-of-the-art facilities is the Industrial Liaison Office, comprising a team of highly experienced scientists dedicated to supporting our industrial clients in accessing Diamond. We offer services ranging from full service; a bespoke experimental design, data collection, data analysis and reporting service, right through to providing facilities for you to conduct your own experiments.
We’re always happy to discuss any enquiries or talk about ways in which access to Diamond’s facilities may be beneficial to your business so please complete an enquiry form, or give us a call on 01235 778797. You can keep in touch with the latest developments by following us on Twitter @DiamondILO or LinkedIn.
3 Deloitte – Consumer Review, The growing power of consumers
5 A 4-D dataset for validation of crystal growth in a complex three-phase material, ice cream, P. Rockett , S. Karagadde, E. Guo , J. Bent , J. Hazekamp, M. Kingsley, J. Vila-Comamala, and P.D. Lee. IOP Conf. Ser.: Mater. Sci. Eng. 84 012076, 2015
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