Engineering trends and economic use of resources
Today, pharmaceutical lyophilization has a permanent place in the product and service portfolio of Optima Group Pharma. We spoke to Franz Boßhammer, business manager at the Mornshausen site, about the latest developments in Klee freeze-dryers and about lyophilization in general.
Mr Boßhammer, we hear it said time and again that pharmaceutical freeze-drying is expensive and used only where absolutely necessary. Are any new ideas emerging about how line or process costs could be reduced perceptibly?
Freeze-drying systems demand high investments in technology, true enough. In addition, they usually involve special machinery design. But for many products, pharmaceutical freeze-drying is presently the only possible method to ensure durability. We see a potential for reducing costs, for example, in the overall dimension of the freeze dryers. This means that dimensions of containers and interior modules need to be reduced. The oil-circulation systems must also be reduced. After all, freeze-drying systems sometimes contain literally tons of stainless steel that has to be heated and cooled down. We attempt to provide these systems with continually improved control units and also to optimize their dimensions.
Moreover, it is always problematic to use special-purpose machinery. We will be focusing increasingly on standardization. The greatest potentials, however, exist in the consumption of energy and resources. Water, nitrogen, compressor engineering also, offer enormous potential for bringing process costs down perceptibly. Only in recent years, a great deal of attention has been devoted to these aspects. Approaches are, therefore, still relatively new.
Does the topic of environmental protection and sustainability provide motivation to push these developments forward?
It is certainly a good reason for doing more. For example, we also have alternative coolants. One of our essential coolants so far has been liquid nitrogen. The situation with liquid nitrogen is that in itself it is environmentally-compliant. However, energy needs to be expended in order to recover it.
When I consider conventional compressor technology, it still uses a great many greenhouse gases. But there are approaches that involve using natural coolants, for example ethane and propane. These can be used in freeze-drying systems within closed circuits in the form of cascade cooling.
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