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Ultra-thin film tribology of elastomeric seals in pressurised metered dose inhalers

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posted on 22.06.2010, 10:51 authored by David W. Grimble
Within pressurised Metered Dose Inhalers (pMDIs) the contact between the valve components and elastomeric seals is of major significance, representing the main contributory factor to the overall system frictional characteristics. Therefore, the seal performance is extremely important and must be optimised to meet the contradictory requirements of preventing leakage and allowing smooth actuation. The environmentally driven trend to HFA formulations as opposed to CFC based ones has deteriorated this problem due to poor lubrication conditions and it has, consequently, increased the frictional losses during the pMDI actuation (hysteresis cycle). Research has been conducted into the key areas of the inhaler mechanism. As such, the contact pressure distribution and resulting reactions have been investigated, with emphasis on the correct treatment of the elastomer (seal) characteristics. The modelling of the device has been conducted within the environment of the multibody dynamics commercial software ADAMS, where a virtual prototype has been built using solid CAD geometries of the valve components. An equation was extrapolated to describe the relation between the characteristics of the ultra thin film contact conditions (sliding velocity, surface geometry, film thickness and reaction force) encountered within the inhaler valve and integrated into the virtual prototype allowing the calculation of friction within the conjuncture (due to viscous shear and adhesion). The latter allowed the analysis and optimisation of key device parameters, such as seal geometry, lubricant properties etc. It has been concluded that the dominant mechanism of friction is adhesion, while boundary lubrication is the prevailing lubrication regime due to the poor surface roughness to film thickness ratio. The multibody dynamics model represents a novel multi physics approach to study the behaviour of pMDIs, including rigid body inertial dynamics, general elasticity, surface interactions (such as adhesion), hydrodynamics and intermolecular surface interactions (such as Van der Waals forces). Good agreement has been obtained against experimental results at component and device level.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© David Grimble

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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