Variations on a common tablet design, which can be distinguished by both colour and shape. Image by Ragesoss (CC BY-SA 3.0)
A new development has the potential to remove the need for millions of single-use plastic bottles and tubes. The aim of the University of Bradford initiative is to bring increased environmental and health benefits. A secondary aim could be to significantly lower logistics costs.
Current effervescent products contain citric acid and sodium bicarbonate which react together during manufacturing at relatively low humidity levels. In order to avoid chemical reactions during manufacture, effervescent products are made under dehumidified conditions, which uses lots of energy and carbon dioxide emissions. Effervescent products also have to be packed in moisture-resistant packaging, such as plastic tubes and bottles.
The new development avoids the necessity for humidity control and creates a product with far greater stability.
The development represents a conceptual shift in the manufacturing process of effervescent products for over one hundred years. This includes effervescent tablets which are designed to dissolve in water, and release carbon dioxide. As well as medical use, effervescent products include formulations carrying detergents for cleaning and those products designed for the cleaning of dentures and contact lenses.
While such products are sold to millions of consumers, there is fragility in terms of the physical and chemical instability of effervescent products during manufacturing and storage
The benefits include reduced carbon dioxide savings during manufacturing, since the tablets no longer need to be made in dehumidified conditions. There is also a drop in transport costs for cleaning fluids and other water-based products, since these products can be transported in dry tablet form
There is also a reduction in the salt content of things like vitamin tablets and other supplements (some tablets on the market contain more than twice the salt content of two bags of crisps).There is also the possibility of reducing plastic waste, given there would be no need for millions of single-use plastic bottles and tubes, as dry tablets can now be taken home and dissolved in a ‘bottle for life’.
The so-termed ‘crystal engineering’ technology is now being marketed under the registered trademarks EfferShield and EfferShine. Manufacturing is being undertaken at the firms Health Innovations and Octopoda Innovations.
According to one of the developers, Professor Anant Paradkar, the breakthrough has global significance: “This has significance in terms of turning the tide on the use of single-use plastics, and reducing the carbon footprint of products, both during manufacturing and transportation. It also enables manufacturers to drastically reduce the salt content of certain products.”