The technology, known as Smooth, and developed by Velocys, a US division of the UK-based Oxford Catalysts Group, has already been successfully tested in the lab and pilot scale in devices that produce emulsions at rates of up to 5 litres per minute.
Emulsions are normally formed in batches under high shear conditions using high energy mixers.
They can be found in a variety of consumer products, including personal care and cosmetic items. The company points out that in many cases promising formulations do not make it to the market because of the limitations of traditional mixing equipment used to create the necessary emulsions.
Strong results in pilot scale trials
"The Smooth technology has produced excellent results in pilot scale trials carried out by a number of major players in the cosmetic and personal care industries. Now we're hoping to move on to the next stage, and run trials on the commercial scale," said Mark Grace, product manager.
The Ohio-based firm stated that the problem with traditional methods is ensuring consistent product quality as the high speed mixing process is difficult to control, leading to over shearing of sensitive materials, thus needing to use expensive surfactants.
By adding a dispersed phase into a continuous phase through an engineered dispersion plate, Smooth says it efficiently produces uniform and stable emulsions.
By pushing the dispersed phase through a specially designed porous plate in its devices, droplets are formed one at a time meaning fragile emulsion components are not damaged, in turn allowing natural oils and other shear sensitive ingredients to be used in entirely new emulsified products.
The Smooth technology is based on microchannel emulsification, which takes advantage of a process known as laminar shearing to produce stable and uniform emulsified mixtures in a continuous stream, often without the need for surfactants.