Does carrier size matter? A fundamental study of drug aerosolisation from carrier based dry powder inhalation systems

Jesslynn Ooi, Daniela Traini, Susan Hoe, William Wong, Paul M. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


There is plenty of evidence supporting the notion that the size of the carrier influences the aerosolisation performance of drug from a drug–carrier blend. Interestingly, that evidence is contradictory in places and the study of such mechanisms is fraught by the compounding variables associated with comparing crystalline powders (e.g. as size is varied so may the shape, surface chemistry, roughness and the amount of fine excipients). To overcome these limitations, a series of model polystyrene spheres were used to study the influence of size on aerosol performance. Three polystyrene sphere carriers (TS-80, TS-250 and TS-500, describing their approximate diameters) were characterised using laser diffraction, atomic force microscopy, colloid probe microscopy, electron microscopy, true density and dynamic vapour sorption. The model carriers were blended with micronized salbutamol sulphate (67.5:1 ratios) and the aerosolisation performance was tested using a multistage liquid impinger at a range of flow rates (40–100 l min−1). Physico-chemical analysis of the carriers indicated that all carriers were spherical with similar roughness and densities. Furthermore, the adhesion force of drug to the carrier surfaces was independent of carrier size. Significant differences in drug aerosolisation were observed with both flow rate and carrier size. In general, as carrier size was increased, aerosol performance decreased. Furthermore, as flow rate was increased so did performance. Such observations suggest that higher energy processes drive aerosolisation, however this is likely to be due to the number of impaction events (and associated frictional and rotational forces) rather than the actual collision velocity (since the larger carriers had increased momentum and drag forces). This study shows that, in isolation of other variables, as carrier size increases, a concurrent decrease in drug aerosolisation performance is observed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Dry powder inhaler (DPI)
  • Carrier size
  • Force of adhesion
  • Inhalation
  • Aerosolisation efficiency


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