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Issue 473, 19 November 2001

£3.5m for keeping chemicals in line


The University of Leeds is to head a project keeping chemicals on their best behaviour, in a 3.5m collaboration with two universities and eleven industrial sponsors.

Best behaviour – Professor Kevin Roberts (right) and co-researcher Dr Xiaojun Lai)

The ‘chemicals behaving badly’ (CBBII) project, led by Professor Kevin Roberts, aims to identify ways of controlling the production of chemical compounds, from laboratory scale through to full industrial production in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical sectors.

Professor Roberts said: "Many modern chemical products, such as advanced drug compounds, are highly complex and hence difficult to process in large manufacturing plants to a standard demanded by consumers and regulators.

"A compound’s characteristics – in terms of particle size, form and distribution – can have a profound effect on later stages of production, when the chemical is turned into medicines, or agricultural products. Our research will enable manufacturers to effectively control the process and therefore the outcome."

The CBBII project, run at the universities of Leeds, Heriot-Watt and Newcastle, builds on the success of CBBI – also led by Professor Roberts – which developed new sensor methods and an embryonic control system. The researchers will work as one team, hotdesking between the three institutions.

The second phase will improve the accuracy of monitoring the compound during production, and ensure the effectiveness of monitoring techniques on an industrial scale.

Chemicals behaving badly is partly funded by the EPSRC and DTI through grants to the three universities, and partly by the University of Leeds and sponsors ranging from large pharmaceutical companies to SMEs.

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