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Pharmaceutical processes involve the

transfer of heat energy.

melting materials and creating an elevated temperature during

cream, suppository or ointment production;

heating of solvents to hasten dissolution processes, e.g. dissolution

of preservatives in the manufacture of solution products;

sterilization of products, e.g. using steam in autoclaves;

evaporation of liquids to concentrate products;

heating or cooling of air in air-conditioning plant;

drying granules for tablet production;

Heat transfer by Conduction
Operation of laboratory water bath
Heat energy from the gas burner is transferred through the
container wall to the water in the bath, which therefore
increases in temperature until its boiling point is reached.
The heat gained is referred to as sensible heat, as it
produces an appreciable rise in temperature and the change
can be detected by the senses.
When the boiling point has been reached further
heating generates steam without any increase in
temperature. This heat gain by the steam is termed latent
heat of evaporation and is used to change the water from
liquid into vapour at constant temperature.
The steam produced rises and contacts the dish wall, which
initially is at room temperature.
The steam condenses on the cool outer surface of the dish
and, in doing so, gives up the latent heat it contains, forming
a layer of condensate on the dish which runs down over the
surface and drops back into the bath.

Fresh condensate is continually formed to take its place, so

that a layer of condensate will always be present. The latent
heat that is liberated passes by conduction through the wall of
the dish and into the contents to be heated. Heat is then
transferred through the fluid by natural convection and
The steam functions as a heat transfer agent whereby the heat
from the gas burner is transferred by the liberation of the
latent heat into the liquid in the dish.
Advantages of this Indirect Heat
the temperature can never exceed 100C (at atmospheric
less chance of localized overheating
because the steam circulates over the whole dish surface,
heating is much more uniform than it would be if the dish
were heated directly over the gas flame.
Consider the Figure

Consider to rotate into a vertical position and straight slightly it

will appear as in Figure 2. A temperature drop occurs from the
temperature of the condensing steam to the lower temperature of
the liquid in the dish. If this liquid is assumed to be of a lower
boiling point than water, then eventually it will boil at this lower
constant temperature and the temperature gradients would appear
as in Figure 2. Ts denotes the steam temperature, TL the temperature
of the boiling liquid and To and Ti are the temperatures of the outer and
inner surfaces of the dish.
Figure 2
Important to know or control the rate of
heat transfer
In many pharmaceutical processes it is important
to know or control the rate at which heat can be
transferred, i.e. the quantity of heat transferred in
unit time. This must be carefully distinguished from
the total quantity of heat that needs to be supplied.
Consider heating a beaker of water using a Bunsen
burner flame. Under a low flame it might take
20 minutes to boil, whereas using a full flame it may
only take 5 minutes.
Initially we will consider the factors that affect heat transfer
through a single layer of material, in this case the dish wall.
Conduction is governed by Fourier's law, which states that
'the rate of conduction is proportional to the area measured
normal to the direction of heat flow and to the temperature
gradient in the direction of heat flow'.

The rate of heat transfer, i.e. the quantity of heat transferred (Q,
joules) in unit time (t, seconds) will therefore depend on the difference
in temperature (T or T0 T1 between the outer and inner surfaces
of the dish (the driving force for the heat transfer process), the
dish thickness LD and the area available for heat transfer, A.
The proportionality constant is termed the thermal conductivity
of the material and is denoted by the symbol K (KD in the case of
the dish). It gives an indication of the ability of the material to
conduct heat: the higher the value the more easily heat is
Combining all these factors gives:
Q/t= KDA (T0-T1)/LD
indicates that to increase the heat transfer rate (i.e. conduct
heat more quickly) through a layer of material the value of A,
T or KD may be increased or the value of L decreased.

SI units of thermal conductivity is W/m K (watt per meters kelvin)

Thermal conductivity values and shows that metals are the
best conductors, followed by non-metallic solids, liquids and
gases. It should be noted that the K values will vary with
temperature and also with the composition of the material (e.g.
from 13 to 19W/mK in the case of stainless steel).
In pharmaceutical processes at anything other than
laboratory scale, the most commonly used heating
medium is steam. Steam is also very important as a
sterilizing medium.
The reasons for the widespread
use of steam include:
The raw material (water) is cheap and plentiful.
It is easy to generate, distribute and control.
It is generally cheaper than viable (practicable) alternative forms of
heating, e.g. electricity.
It is clean, odourless and tasteless, and accidental contamination of the
product is less likely to be serious.
It has a high heat content (in the form of latent heat) and can heat
materials very quickly.
The heat is given up at a constant temperature, which is useful in
controlling heating processes and in sterilization.
One disadvantage of the use of steam
it is used at pressures that are typically two to three times
higher than atmospheric, and thus steam presents potential
safety problems and necessitates the use of high-strength
To appreciate why steam is used in pharmaceutical
processing and the principles of heat transfer using steam it is
necessary to consider how the steam is produced, its heat
content, and how the heat content varies with pressure and