Foods & Flavours

CPI consortium moves closer to reducing the risks associated with new formulated product development

19th November 2019

CPI, an independent technology innovation centre and founding member of the UK Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, is edging closer to reducing risk for formulators across a range of industries with its collaborative Microstar project. 

The science of formulation refers to the complex process of mixing ingredients together to make products including foods, medicines, cosmetics and detergents. The stability of a formulation has a significant effect on product performance, in particular transportation and shelf life, and can be one of the key barriers to product innovation. The Microstar project is developing a methodology and design specification for a testing platform encompassing a series of novel microfluidic chips that will allow rapid screening of formulation stability. Standard industry testing can take up to a year; however, the Microstar project aims to radically cut this down to days or event hours, saving significant time, money and materials in product development.

Following two years of intensive research efforts by project partners at Imperial College London and the University of Durham, the project is now moving into the next phase where the academic work will be translated for use in real-world applications. As part of this, CPI is developing a stability screening platform at its National Formulation Centre at NETPark in Sedgefield, County Durham. This capability will be useful for two different approaches; as a high-throughput pass/fail stability screen, and as a route to in-depth mechanistic understanding.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) and BP Plc are both key players in the consortium, offering extensive formulation expertise in the consumer products and motor oil markets. The data and input from these partners are therefore crucial for validating the capability developed through the project. 

Currently, two prototype rigs have been developed - one at Imperial College London and the other at P&G in Newcastle. These rigs can successfully be used to accelerate instability of real-world detergency products; the rig being developed at CPI will build upon this work to encompass a broader range of product categories for the benefit of companies developing products across a wide variety of markets.

The project gained further endorsement when one of the post-doctoral researchers working on the Microstar project, Sepideh Khodaparast, was awarded one of the highly contested 2019 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science UK and Ireland Fellowships, demonstrating the high calibre of technical staff driving the project forward.

Tony Jackson, Director of CPI’s Formulation business unit, said: “We are delighted to have both BP and P&G on board for this project. Working with such high-calibre project partners indicates the importance of the work being done here to the success of the UK-based formulating industries. I am excited to see how the Microstar project will drive efficiency and productivity in the product development process.”

Dr Richard Thompson, Durham University said, "Working with our partners on this project has taken us into new territory, demanding innovative methods to find the stability limits of lubricants under extreme conditions. Understanding these processes enables cheap, rapid pre-screening, which is key to accelerating product development for challenging new environments."