Investigation into powder tribo–charging of pharmaceuticals. Part II: Sensitivity to relative humidity

M. Beretta, T. R. Hörmann, P. Hainz, W. K. Hsiao, A. Paudel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental conditions can have a profound impact on the bulk behaviour of pharmaceutical powders, including their tribo–charging tendency. Typically, high relative humidity (RH) has been associated to a reduction in the electrostatic charge of the material. However, the occurrence of charge mitigation seems to be related to the quantity of water molecules at the powder surface, which depends on intrinsic material attributes (i.e., water sorption propensity), and external factors (i.e., RH level). In the present study, pharmaceutical powders (i.e., microcrystalline cellulose, D–mannitol, paracetamol and magnesium stearate) were conditioned at three levels of RH, relevant for pharmaceutical operations, and their bulk behaviour, including charging propensity, was analyzed. Depending on the material type, powders sorbed water from the humid atmosphere to different extents, resulting in different charging behaviours. Overall, the charge density of the materials was found to decrease after a certain RH or monotonically decrease with an increase of RH, except for D–mannitol. For this material, a contrasting trend of increase in charging was observed with an increase in RH. Moreover, the powders showed a distinct tribo–charging sensitivity to RH, with paracetamol being the most affected. These findings suggest that a careful consideration on solid material–moisture interactions is needed when using RH as strategy to minimize electrostatic effects in powder processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120015
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


  • Environmental conditions
  • Pharmaceutical powders
  • Powder characterization
  • Powder tribo–charging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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