Associate 2001-02

Richard D. Braatz

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering


One of the most significant advances in the past century has been in the production of pharmaceuticals to treat diseases and other human ailments. More than 90 percent of all pharmaceutical products (e.g., tablets, aerosols, capsules, suspensions, suppositories) contain a drug in particulate form. Crystallization is the major technological process to produce these pharmaceuticals in high purity. The size and distribution of crystals determines stability of the product and its drug-release properties. While there have been many advances in chemical synthesis, control of the physical form of the crystalline product remains poor. Better control of the crystal size distribution will increase yield, lower production costs, and increase the therapeutic benefit of the drug while reducing undesirable side effects.

During his Center appointment, Professor Braatz will focus on developing novel sensor technologies to understand and control the crystallization of pharmaceuticals. This project will break new ground in particle-size distribution measurement, using laser backscattering and video microscopy. Sensor algorithms will be based on transformation algorithms wedded with specialized multivariate statistical procedures. This will condense the sensor data into lower-dimensional vectors that can be related to the crystal size distribution. He hopes to obtain higher accuracy by coupling these algorithms to novel high-resolution simulation methods. One of the model systems used to test and evaluate the techniques will be Lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering pharmaceutical.