Date of Award

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering - (Ph.D.)


Chemical, Biological and Pharmaceutical Engineering

First Advisor

Ecevit Atalay Bilgili

Second Advisor

Robert Benedict Barat

Third Advisor

Edward L. Dreyzin

Fourth Advisor

Zafar Iqbal

Fifth Advisor

Rennan Pan


One way to improve the bioavailability of poorly water-soluble drugs is to reduce particle size of drug crystals down to nanoscale via wet stirred media milling. An increase in total surface area per mass loading of the drug and specific surface area as well as reduced external mass transfer resistance allow a faster dissolution of the poorly-water soluble drug from nanocrystals. To prevent aggregation of nanoparticles, polymers and surfactants are dissolved in water acting as stabilizers via adsorption onto the drug crystals.

In the last two decades, ample experimental data were generated in the area of wet stirred media milling for the production of drug nanoparticle suspensions. However, a fundamental scientific/engineering understanding of various aspects of this process is still lacking. These challenges include elucidation of the governing mechanism(s) during nanoparticle formation and physical stabilization of the nanosuspension with the use of polymers and surfactants (formulation parameters), understanding the impact of process parameters in the context of first-principle-based models, and production of truly nanosized drug particles (10-100 nm) with acceptable physical stability and minimal contamination with the media. Recirculation mode of milling operation, where the drug suspension in a holding tank continuously circulates through the stirred media mill, has been commonly used in lab, pilot, and commercial scales. Although the recirculation is continuous, the recirculation operation mode is overall a batch operation, requiring significant number of batches for a large-volume pharmaceutical product. Hence, development and investigation of a truly continuous process should offer significant advantages. To explain the impact of some of the processing parameters, stress intensity and stress number concepts were widely used in literature, which do not account for the effect of suspension viscosity explicitly. The impact of the processing parameters has not been explained in a predictive and reliable manner.

In this dissertation, a comprehensive investigation of the production of Griseofulvin nanosuspensions in a wet stirred media mill operating in both the recirculation and continuous modes has been conducted to address the aforementioned fundamental challenges. Griseofulvin has been selected as a model poorly water-soluble BCS Class II drug. Impact of various formulation parameters such as stabilizer type and loading as well as processing parameters such as rotor speed, bead loading, bead size, suspension flow rate and drug loading was studied. A major novelty of the present contribution is that the impact of processing and formulation parameters has been analyzed and interpreted using a combined experimental-theoretical (microhydrodynamic model) approach. Such a comprehensive approach allowed us to intensify the process for the production of sub-100 nm drug particles, which could not be produced with top-down approaches in the literature so far. In addition, a multi-pass mode of continuous operation was developed and the so-called “Rehbinder effect”, which has not been shown for the breakage of drug particles, was also elucidated. The dissertation work (1) indicated the need for a minimum polymeric stabilizer-to-drug ratio for proper stabilization of drug nanosuspensions as dictated by polymer adsorption and synergistic interactions between a polymeric stabilizer and a surfactant, (2) demonstrated the existence of an optimum polymer concentration from a breakage rate perspective in the presence of a surfactant, which results from the competing effects of viscous dampening and enhanced steric stabilization at higher polymer concentration, (3) developed fundamental understanding of the breakage dynamics-processing-formulation relationships and rationalized preparation of a single highly drug-loaded batch (20% or higher) instead of multiple dilute batches, (4) designed an intensified process for faster preparation of sub-100 nm particles with reduced specific energy consumption and media wear (i.e. minimal drug contamination), and (5) provided first evidence for the proof of Rehbinder effect during the milling of drugs. Not only do the polymers and surfactants allow proper physical stabilization of the nanoparticles in the suspensions, but they also do facilitate drug particle breakage. This dissertation also discusses applications of nanosuspensions and practical issues encountered during wet media milling.