In any process, things can sometimes go wrong. Although your process engineers and managers may understand the operation intimately, sometimes outside help is necessary to determine the root cause of the problem.
During the production of a tablet, the quality control engineer found a few tablets with some black flecks in them. Identifying the flecks would help locate the source and eliminate the problem.
FTIR imaging produces a set of spatially resolved infrared spectra that can be used to diagnose the problem. The data set includes spectra of the contaminant as well as the matrix, and the contaminant can be located and analyzed without removing it from the tablet matrix. This is a distinct advantage in that cross-mixing of different components will not occur.
The data collected from the contaminant area showed the presence of two materials in the tablet matrix. The analysis identified the matrix itself as the first component, although the material was black instead of the normal pink color. The other component was a degraded lubricant used in the production line. This lead to the conclusion that the lubricant had thermally degraded and agglomerated. It entered the production process as small particles that mixed with the matrix material and, once thermally degraded, resulted in the small black particles that were observed.