A new insight into the mechanism of the tabletability flip phenomenon

Zijian Wang, Chenguang Wang, Yiwang Guo, Deepak Bahl, Alex Fok, Changquan Calvin Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tabletability is an outcome of interparticulate bonding area (BA) – bonding strength (BS) interplay, influenced by the mechanical properties, size and shape, surface energetics of the constituent particles, and compaction parameters. Typically, a more plastic active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) exhibits a better tabletability than less plastic APIs due to the formation of a larger BA during tablet compression. Thus, solid forms of an API with greater plasticity are traditionally preferred if other critical pharmaceutical properties are comparable. However, the tabletability flip phenomenon (TFP) suggests that a solid form of an API with poorer tabletability may exhibit better tabletability when formulated with plastic excipients. In this study, we propose another possible mechanism of TFP, wherein softer excipient particles conform to the shape of harder API particles during compaction, leading to a larger BA under certain pressures and, hence, better tabletability. In this scenario, the BA-BS interplay is dominated by BA. Accordingly, TFP should tend to occur when API solid forms are formulated with a soft excipient. We tested this hypothesis by visualizing the deformation of particles in a model compressed tablet by nondestructive micro-computed tomography and by optical microscopy when the particles were separated from the tablet. The results confirmed that soft particles wrapped around hard particles at their interfaces, while an approximately flat contact was formed between two adjacent soft particles. In addition to the direct visual evidence, the BA-dominating mechanism was also supported by the observation that TFP occurred in the p-aminobenzoic acid polymorph system only when mixed with a soft excipient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123956
JournalInternational journal of pharmaceutics
StatePublished - Apr 10 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier B.V.


  • Bonding area
  • Bonding strength
  • Mixtures
  • Particle deformation
  • Plasticity
  • Tabletability
  • Tabletability flip

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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