Purpose: to design, assemble and test a prototype of a novel production plant, suitable for producing microparticles (MPs) by processing highly viscous feed solutions (FSs). Methods: the prototype has been built using a commercial air compressor, a piston pump, an airless spray-gun, a customized air-treatment section, a timer, a rotating base, and a filtration section. Preliminary prototype parameter setting was carried out to individuate the best performing nozzle’s dimension, the nebulization timing, and the CaCl 2 concentration in the gelation fluid. In addition, prototype throughput (1 L to 5 L) and the range of practicable feed solution (FS) viscosities were assayed. A set of four batches was prepared in order to characterize the MPs, in terms of mean particle size and distribution, flow properties, swelling, encapsulation efficiency and release. Results: according to a qualitative scoring, the large nozzle was suitable to nebulize FSs at a higher alginate concentration. Conversely, the small nozzle performed better in the processing of FSs with an alginate concentration up to 2% w/v. Only at the highest degree of viscosity, corresponding to 5% w/v of alginate, the FS processing was not technically possible. Among the CaCl 2 concentrations considered, 15% w/v was recognized as the most versatile. The prototype appears to be convenient and suitable to grant a high yield starting from 2 L of FS. The flow behavior of the FSs assayed can be satisfactorily described with the Carreau-Yasuda equation and the throughput begins to slightly decrease for FSs at alginate concentrations exceeding 3% w/v. MP morphology was irregular with crumpled shape. The angle of repose indicates a good flowability and the release studies showed gastro-resistance and potential prolonged release applications. Conclusions: the novel prototype of production plant is suitable to process large amounts (2 L or more) of FSs, characterized by a high viscosity, to produce MPs suitable for bioactive principle delivery.
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