Microparticles are particles with dimensions in the micrometer range.



This case study is a short abstract on spouted bed characteristics, following closely findings in the publication by J. Vanamu and A. Sahoo [1].

Spouted bed systems are of highest importance for all powder processing industries, and more specific in pharmaceutical industry for coating and drying in pellet technologies [2]. These systems offer manufacturing particularly fine and temperature-sensitive particles from small to large scale: laboratory systems are capable of processing product volumes of very few grams, while production systems can handle capacities of several tons [3].

But how to control conditions in spouted beds for efficient process applications, like mixing, coating, or drying?

There might be certain reasons, that the hydrodynamic behavior of the spouted bed in the pharmaceutical industries is less investigated. The referred publication shed some light on the hydrodynamic characteristics of a spouted bed where the MCC Spheres (CELLETS®) are adopted as the bed material. These starter cores are ideal model systems due to their perfect sphericity and zero-level friability. At the same time, smooth and defined surface structure initiate perfect modelling conditions in the spouted bed dynamics.


CELLETS®, made of 100% Microcrystalline Cellulose, have been used as bed material. The physical properties of the CELLETS® are shown in Table 1. The CELLETS® particle morphology is represented in Figure 1.

Parameter Value
CELLETS® 700 and CELLETS® 1000
Size distribution 700-1000 µm (CELLETS® 700)

1000-1400 µm (CELLETS® 1000)

Bulk density 800 kg/m3
Particle sphericity > 0.9
Void fraction 0.42
Geldart classification B

Table 1: Physical properties of the CELLETS®.

SEM micrographs of CELLETS® 700

Figure 1: SEM micrographs of CELLETS® 700, found in [1].

Spouted bed: experiment setup

There are some international players on the market of spouted bed technologies, such as Glatt which seems to be the major one (Figure 2). In this framework, a self-made setup is used for experiments. The experiments that have been carried out in a column, which is fabricated from a Perspex sheet. This column consists of a cylindrical section of height 0.53 m and a diameter of the cylinder of 0.135 m. The column further converged the diameter of the cylinder to 0.05 m as a conical bottom having a length of 0.47 m. The spouting air is supplied by a compressed air line is controlled by a gas regulator. The airflow is controlled by a gate valve and a mesh plate having a mesh size less than the size of the bed material is employed as a separator preventing the backflow of the bed material. Images are captured using a high-speed video camera to gain more details of the hydrodynamic characteristics of the flow pattern inside the spouted bed geometry.

Spouted bed

Figure 2: Scheme of a spouted bed (Glatt, Germany).

Experiments & spouted bed results

Experiments are carried out with three different static bed heights of shallow depth wherein the bed height is in the range of factor 2-3 of the Inlet diameter using two different particle distribution classes at 500-710 µm and 700-1000 µm, respectively. Analyzed parameters are the pressure drop across the bed, the bed expansion ratio, and the clusters concerning the superficial gas velocity are focused in the following.

J. Vanamu et al. found that the “bed expansion ratio increases with increasing superficial gas velocity until the onset of external spouting, further increase in the superficial gas velocity, the bed expansion ratio decreases. With increasing the volume of bed, the bed expansion ratio decreases. In a larger volume of bed, the particles tend to spout into the freeboard region rather than expanding with higher superficial gas velocity”. Initial spouting is symmetric, but with increasing superficial gas velocity spouting becomes asymmetric, and asymmetry is more pronounced or starts at lower superficial gas velocities for smaller particles. This agrees with existing theories of hydrodynamic behavior in a fluidized environment. Respecting the necessarity of a proper flow behavior for mixing, coating or drying applications in drug processing, symmetric spouting is essential. In turn, the superficial gas velocity may be kept low.

In case that high superficial gas velocity regimes are required for the operations a draft tube may be installed within the column to achieve the symmetric spout formation.


This case study highlights the Hydrodynamic behavior of MCC spheres in a spouted bed using image processing method. MCC spheres in the range between 500-710 µm and 700-1000 µm had been employed. All spheres showed a symmetric and asymmetric spouting in the spouted bed. With increasing superficial gas velocity, the fully suspended particles are limited to a certain height in the freeboard region due to the gas-solid crossflow. A change from symmetric to asymmetric spouting is observed with increasing superficial gas velocity.

Keeping the conditions efficient for the mixing, coating or drying applications requires finally to suppress high superficial gas velocities, or changing the setup in such way, that symmetric spouting conditions are kept upright even at higher superficial gas velocities.


[1] J. Vanamu and A. Sahoo, Particuology 76 (2023) 101

[2] L. A. P. de Freitas, Particuology 42 (2019) 126

[3] Glatt GmbH, Binzen, Germany. Online on Nov 8, 2022: Spouted bed systems – Glatt – Integrated Process Solutions

Great thanks to Arihant Innochem Pvt. Ltd. who supplied and donated CELLETS® for this study.

Figure 3: SEM picture of cross section of a Taste masked pellets coated with 25 mg Eudragit EPO.


This case study on Atomoxetine HCl pellets is a short abstract of the publication by Y.D. Priya et al. [1].

Atomoxetine is a medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [2]. The API is marketed under the trade names Atomoxetine, Atomoxe, Agakalin, and Strattera (initially launched) [3]. Atomoxetine is an extremely bitter API. As being initially launched for children as capsules or tablets, the paediatric compliance by improved taste-masking and the simplified administration to paediatrics are in focus of this study.

A multi-unit particulate pellet coating (MUPS) was selected as oral dosage form. The fluidized bed technology (with Wurster column) was employed for coating and layering processes. This is a well-known technology, which Is for instance offered by Glatt. Starter cores were coated with the API, followed by layering with a polymeric coating for which realized the taste-masking.

Atomoxetine layering

Starter cores are made of Microcrystalline Cellulose (MCC) in sizes comparable to CELLETS® 200, while a fair efficiency of drug layering was observed with the combination of HPMC (Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose) and HPC (Hydroxypropyl cellulose) as binders. The composition of API layering is presented in Table 1. The drug dispersion was sprayed onto the MCC pellets with an inlet temperature between 50 °C and 55 °C and a fluidized bed temperature between 35 °C and 40 °C.

API layering material Composition
Starter core
  MCC pellets 58.00
API layering
  Atomoxetine HCl 25.00
  Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose 3.50
  Hydroxypropyl Cellulose 3.50
  Low-Substituted Hydroxypropyl Cellulose 5.00
  Talc 5.00
  Purified Water Qs
Total weight (mg) 100.00

Table 1: Formulation of API layered pellets.

Taste-masking coating

The polymeric taste-masking layer is made of a methacrylate co-polymer (Eudragit EPO) providing an excellent coating with taste masking properties for fine particles and tablets. The composition of the taste-masking suspension is shown in Table 2. The inlet temperature is between 40 °C and 45 °C, and fluidized bed temperature is between 25 °C and 30 °C.

Polymeric coating material Composition
Drug Layered pellets 100.00
Eudragit EPO 25.00
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate 2.500
Stearic acid 3.750
Talc 6.25
FD&C Yellow No. 6 0.50
FD&C Red No. 3 0.05
Purified Water Qs
Total weight (mg) 138.050

Table 2: Formulation of polymeric coating suspension.

The efficiency of taste-masking was benchmarked by a bitterness rating on human volunteers. Figure 1 shows, that the taste sensitivity identifies a bitterness at 6 µg/ml API concentration and an extreme bitterness at 7 µg/ml API and higher concentration. Thus, the threshold bitterness of Atomoxetine HCl is 6 µg/ml.

Atomoxetine: bitternessFigure 1: Concentration of drug solution (µg/ ml). Bitter intensity ratings from no bitterness (green), bitterness (blue), extremely bitter (red).

Figure 1: Concentration of drug solution (µg/ ml). Bitter intensity ratings from no bitterness (green), bitterness (blue), extremely bitter (red).

All the volunteers felt bitter taste when the drug layered pellets were coated with 6.25 mg of Eudragit EPO. Whereas in the pellets coated with 12.5 mg and 18.75 mg of Eudragit EPO, bitter taste was masked up to 15 seconds after keeping the tablet in the mouth, and later all the human volunteers felt bitter taste. When the concentration of Eudragit EPO was increased to 25 mg, the bitter taste of Atomoxetine HCl was completely taste-masked and no volunteer was felt bitter taste.

Figure 2: In-Vivo Taste evaluation in healthy human volunteers.

Figure 2: In-Vivo Taste evaluation in healthy human volunteers.

Figure 3 depicts the entire particle size of a taste-masked MCC pellet coated with the Atomoxetine drug layer and 25 mg of Eudragit EPO. The average particle size of the taste-masked pellets is between 180 µm and 250 µm, assuming, that no gritty feeling of particles in patient’s mouth will appear. It should be said, that a micronization of Atomoxetine HCl was deemed to be necessary for the drug layering process. Micronization minimized the surface roughness of the API layered pellet so that an efficient taste-masking coating can be applied.

Figure 3: SEM picture of cross section of a Taste masked pellets coated with 25 mg Eudragit EPO.

Figure 3: SEM picture of cross section of a Taste masked pellets coated with 25 mg Eudragit EPO.


MCC pellets in the size of about 200 µm were layered with Atomoxetine. HPMC and HPC were used as binders, realizing a precise surface definition for a subsequent taste-masking coating. The taste-masking was most efficient at a polymeric concentration of 25 mg. Keeping the size of the coated pellets below 300 µm avoids a gritty feeling and thus increase the patient’s compliance.

This study by Priya et al. indicated that the fluidized bed process produced the most appropriate taste masked pellets of Atomoxetine HCl for oral disintegrating tablets.


[1] Y.D. Priya et al., Int J Pharm Pharm Sci, (6) 7, (2014) 110-115

[2] “Atomoxetine Hydrochloride Monograph for Professionals”. Drugs.com. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2019.

[3] ROTE LISTE 2017, Verlag Rote Liste Service GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, ISBN 978-3-946057-10-9, (2017) 162.