Control of particle morphology in the spray drying of colloidal suspensions
Powders of nanoparticles are volatile, i.e. easily disperse in air, which makes their handling difficult. Granulation of nanoparticle powders provides a solution to that issue, and it is generally performed by spray drying the nanoparticles that have been suspended in a liquid. Spray drying of a colloidal suspension consists of atomising the suspension into droplets by a fast flowing and hot gas. Once the droplets dried, the resulting dry grains/microparticles can be used in a wide range of applications – food, pharmaceutics, fillers, ceramics, etc. It is well known that the grains resulting from spray-drying may be spherical but may also exhibit other diverse morphologies. Although different influencing parameters have been identified, no clear overview can be found in the literature for the driving mechanisms of grain shaping. In the present work, we review the assumptions made in the literature to explain the different morphologies. We analyse the orders of magnitude of the different effects at stake and show that the grain shape does not result from a hydrodynamic instability but is determined by the drying stage. However, we emphasize that neither the drying time nor the associated Péclet number are critical parameters for the determination of shape morphology. In light of those results, we also review and discuss the single droplet experiments developed to mimic spray drying. Generalising our previous works, we further analyse how the control of morphology can be achieved by tuning the colloidal interactions in the suspension. We detail the model we have developed that relates the colloidal interaction potential to a critical pressure exerted by the solvent as it flows, and we provide a quantitative prediction of the grain shape. Finally, we offer perspectives with regard to spray drying of systems such as molecular solutions, widely performed in e.g. the pharmaceutical industry.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Colloids