GEA Pharma Systems, in co-operation with NDC, has developed a new inline moisture sensor for pharmaceutical drying systems that drastically simplifies moisture measurement, saves processing time, avoids unnecessary operator contact with toxic compounds and helps ensure a top product quality.

The new moisture sensor, LHP-NDC 710e, which fits into a standard 2” port on the dryer, eliminates the need for complex chemical modelling techniques (chemometrics) to ascertain the moisture content of a product during the drying process. It extracts just the moisture content as a single piece of information and displays it simply for the operator. This speeds up the drying process and improves accuracy.

Using standard techniques, samples of dried powder must be taken manually from each batch of powder and tested off line in a laboratory to establish when the correct moisture contact has been achieved. This is time consuming, requires the dryer to be stopped and to wait while the test is performed, and runs the risk of the target moisture level being overshot producing a product that is too dry and difficult (or impossible) to handle efficiently. Validated systems are susceptible to many outside influences, such as atmospheric conditions, which means that the moisture level can vary even if the process itself is constant.

The new sensor from GEA Pharma Systems, however, shows a continuous display of the actual moisture content on a display screen as the product dries. This allows the operator to monitor precisely the actual moisture content and to stop the drying at exactly the right point. There is no need to wait for results, no chance of over-drying the product, and the operator never has to come in direct contact with the product.

In addition the standard technique only provides a snapshot of the condition of a limited amount of product (5-10 grams). The in-line moisture sensor, however, is capable of monitoring the complete drying cycle. The total amount of analysed product during the process cycle is estimated to be more than 1000 grams. This will enable the operator to gain an understanding of the complete process cycle and so continuously improve the production process as well as anticipate unplanned events.

When first installing the LHP-NDC 710e it is necessary to perform a simple calibration exercise to compare the reading on the sensor to actual readings from laboratory tests. These need to be done for each product to be dried. Once the calibration line has been plotted for each product the instrument remembers the settings and continues to show accurate moisture levels for each product. As this is a display of the actual moisture level in the powder it is unaffected by atmospheric conditions or other variables.

The LHP-NDC 710e is simple to install and can be ready for calibration in just 20 minutes. It allows the moisture content of any powder product to be adjusted as required.

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