Decoding Fine API Agglomeration as a Key Indicator of Powder Flowability and Dissolution: Impact of Particle Engineering

Sangah Kim, Mirna Cheikhali, Rajesh N. Davé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Fine API agglomeration and its mitigation via particle engineering, i.e., dry coating, remains underexplored. The purpose was to investigate agglomeration before and after dry coating of fine cohesive APIs and impact on powder processability, i.e., flowability (FFC), bulk density (BD), and dissolution of BCS Class II drugs. Method: Ibuprofen (three sizes), fenofibrate, and griseofulvin (5–20 µm), before and after dry coating with varying amounts of hydrophobic (R972P) or hydrophilic (A200) nano- silica, were assessed for agglomeration, FFC, BD, surface energy, wettability, and dissolution. The granular Bond number (Bog), a dimensionless parameter, evaluated through material-sparing particle-scale measures and particle-contact models, was used to express relative powder cohesion. Results: Significant powder processability improvements after dry coating were observed: FFC increased by multiple flow regimes, BD increased by 25–100%, agglomerate ratio (AR) reduction by over an order of magnitude, and greatly enhanced API dissolution rate even with hydrophobic (R972P) silica coating. Scrutiny of particle-contact models revealed non-triviality in estimating API surface roughness, which was managed through the assessment of measured bulk properties. A power-law correlation was identified between AR and Bog and subsequently, between AR and FFC & bulk density; AR below 5 ensured improved processability and dissolution. Conclusion: Agglomeration, an overlooked material-sparing measure for powder cohesiveness, was a key indicator of powder processability and dissolution. The significant agglomerate reduction was possible via dry coating with either silica type at adequate surface area coverage. Reduced agglomeration after dry coating also countered the adverse impact of increased surface hydrophobicity on dissolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3079-3098
Number of pages20
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


  • dry coating
  • granular bond number
  • powder agglomeration
  • powder processability
  • powder roughness


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