The Role of Vacuum Pumps in the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Vacuum pumps play a critical role in the pharmaceutical industry. From drying, crystallization, sterilization to degassing, this piece of equipment is deployed at all scales and in all sector of drug production. Vacuum pumps, which is a component of every vacuum priming system design, are used in the production of bulk drugs, intermediate products, or active pharmaceutical ingredients (API).

Processes performed in a vacuum ensure the product is not damaged because of high temperatures. It is also faster and more energy efficient than conventional processes. Several applications of vacuum pumps in the pharmaceutical production include:

Drying

The drying process takes place immediately after filtration or centrifugation. It involves separating liquids from solids. This is done by applying heat into the wet products. The heat then evaporates moisture, leaving the needed solid ingredients.

To prevent the heat from damaging biological and active ingredients, vacuum drying is applied in the process. This allows maintaining low temperatures to avoid oxidation and reduction of the ingredients’ effects.

Distillation

Vacuum distillation is a special method of separating liquids that are different in composition, pressure, and temperature. In this method, compounds are separated at a pressure lower than the standard atmospheric pressure. This means compounds boil below their normal boiling temperature, preventing them from decomposing during the process.

How are liquids separated? In vacuum distillation, liquids are vaporized, extracted in the form of gas, and re-condensed to get the needed material. This is typically done in pesticides, oil, grease, and fatty acids among others.

Sterilization

Sterilization is the process of eliminating all forms of microbial life such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses from a product. This is an imperative process to ensure the safety of the patients. Vacuum pumps are used to eliminate air pockets and maximizing efficient steam penetration in sterilizing medical devices, surgical instruments, and equipment.

Degassing

green vacuum pump

Degassing is the process of removing dissolved or residual gases in a pharmaceutical product. Vacuum pumps extract these unwanted gasses to improve the product’s quality and avoid cross-contamination or corrosion.

Some examples of this are degassing polymer to make it bubbleless, degassing paint to remove excess gas that may harden or lower its quality, and degassing oil to improve purity.

Crystallization

Crystallization is the final step in manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients. It involves evaporating and cooling excessively saturated liquid to form crystals. In this process, vacuum pumps are used at various pressure ranges to control the evaporation and cooling speed. This allows you to cut down cost by lowering the liquid’s boiling point.

Vacuum pumps play a vital role in many processes of pharmaceutical production. Whether it’s from a pilot or industrial production, it’s one piece of equipment that ensures drugs and medications don’t lose their efficacy after undergoing heat processes.

Without these pumps, manufacturers won’t achieve the desired results in the drying, distillation, sterilizing, degassing, and crystallization processes. Consumers, in turn, won’t have medicines to take. This just shows the importance of vacuum pumps not only in the pharmaceutical industry but for the general public as well.