Process modelling and simulation for continuous pharmaceutical manufacturing of ibuprofen

Hikaru G. Jolliffe, Dimitrios Gerogiorgis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Pharmaceutical corporations face rapidly rising process research and development (R&D) as well as production costs due to globalised competition. Batch production processes are dominant in the pharmaceutical industry and have multiple advantages, including equipment flexibility, high-fidelity quality control and the ability to recall specific batches; they however suffer disadvantages such as limited heat transfer and mixing scalability and low operational asset efficiency. Continuous Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (CPM) has a documented potential to reduce cost because continuous production techniques can be easier to scale up and can be designed to be more efficient in terms of both solvent and energy use: therefore, it is both timely and important to explore the expanding feasibility limits of this emerging technology. The literature has been extensively surveyed in order to identify a series of candidate Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) for flowsheet synthesis, process modelling and mass balance simulation toward rapid assessment of CPM potential. Ibuprofen [2-(4-isobutylphenyl)propanoic acid], the widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), has emerged as an ideal CPM candidate because it is in high global demand and can generate significant profit margins. The flowsheet is based on a published organic synthesis pathway and
produces 50 kg of ibuprofen annually using three plug flow reactors (PFRs) in series, followed by a final separation for purification. Kinetic and thermodynamic parameter estimation modelling has been employed in order to compute essential data for design, and all PFR reactors have been designed based on reported conversions of feed and intermediate organic molecules in the respective pharmaceutical synthesis reactions. Theoretically computed reactor designs are in good agreement with experimental prototypes constructed for the same organic synthesis, as well as in with previously reported CPM systems. The developed continuous final separation performs very well in accordance with green chemistry principles, and with relatively low environmental impact (an E-factor of 25.4).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-191
JournalChemical Engineering Research and Design
Early online date12 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Continuous pharmaceutical manufacturing (CPM)
  • Green chemistry
  • Process design
  • Process modelling
  • Process simulation
  • Ibuprofen


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