The ice nucleation temperature determines the primary drying rate of lyophilization for samples frozen on a temperature-controlled shelf

J Pharm Sci. 2001 Jul;90(7):860-71. doi: 10.1002/jps.1039.


The objective of this study was to determine the influence of ice nucleation temperature on the primary drying rate during lyophilization for samples in vials that were frozen on a lyophilizer shelf. Aqueous solutions of 10% (w/v) hydroxyethyl starch were frozen in vials with externally mounted thermocouples and then partially lyophilized to determine the primary drying rate. Low- and high-particulate-containing samples, ice-nucleating additives silver iodide and Pseudomonas syringae, and other methods were used to obtain a wide range of nucleation temperatures. In cases where the supercooling exceeded 5 degrees C, freezing took place in the following three steps: (1) primary nucleation, (2) secondary nucleation encompassing the entire liquid volume, and (3) final solidification. The primary drying rate was dependent on the ice nucleation temperature, which is stochastic in nature but is affected by particulate content and the presence of ice nucleators. Sample cooling rates of 0.05 to 1 degrees C/min had no effect on nucleation temperatures and drying rate. We found that the ice nucleation temperature is the primary determinant of the primary drying rate. However, the nucleation temperature is not under direct control, and its stochastic nature and sensitivity to difficult-to-control parameters result in drying rate heterogeneity. Nucleation temperature heterogeneity may also result in variation in other morphology-related parameters such as surface area and secondary drying rate. Overall, these results document that factors such as particulate content and vial condition, which influence ice nucleation temperature, must be carefully controlled to avoid, for example, lot-to-lot variability during cGMP production. In addition, if these factors are not controlled and/or are inadvertently changed during process development and scaleup, a lyophilization cycle that was successful on the research scale may fail during large-scale production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Freeze Drying*
  • Freezing
  • Temperature