News (from Edinburgh Research and Innovation)

Deep Heat gets makeover with University’s help

  • 8 January 2013

Mentholatum has embarked on a collaboration with the University's Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership to research ways that further improve the production processes and operational efficiencies across its range of topically applied products.

The company behind 'Deep Heat', one of the UK’s iconic healthcare brands, has embarked on a collaboration with the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership (ECFP) based at the University of Edinburgh, to research ways that further improve the production processes and operational efficiencies across its range of topically applied products.

Working with the East Kilbride-based Mentholatum Company Ltd, ECFP plans to examine the behaviour of Deep Heat's physical structure to enable screening for new product development prototypes on the basis of objective evidence and hard statistical data, rather than rely solely on subjective assessments.

Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI), the commercialisation arm of the University of Edinburgh, was instrumental in sealing the deal with the company, having worked closely with both Mentholatum and ECFP to develop a collaborative partnership that has already led to further projects.

ECFP will image the three-dimensional microstructure of Deep Heat product under shear, which will give insights into those factors most influential to the physical stability of the emulsion. Such complex shear behaviour is important to understand, since it not only dictates how processes must be employed when creating a product, but it also how it affects consumer usage when applying it topically to the skin. 

Unravelling the complexities of Deep Heat's physical stability and flow behaviour by applying their advanced expertise in complex fluids (which include dispersions, emulsions, gels and liquid crystals) was critical to Mentholatum choosing ECFP as its collaborative research partner, as Dr Tiffany Wood, who heads ECFP explains.

"Fundamentally, we need to better understand how Deep Heat behaves when it is topically applied and during processing. We achieve this by imaging the microstructure of the product as it is sheared to determine how the emulsion droplets, surfactants and colloids interact on both physical and chemical levels to determine the flow behaviour. By identifying parameters that could cause processing issues for the company we provide insight that enables the company to efficiently produce a product that will be optimised for the consumer.

Working with Mentholatum has given ECFP an excellent insight into the development of formulations for optimising the experience of the consumer."

Mentholatum has invested heavily in the development of a new £8 million processing facility at its East Kilbride base. With hi-tech manufacturing and packing equipment being installed in this new facility, the company was required to ensure that medicinal products made at the new scale would be identical to those from the existing facility.

Whilst chemical analysis to demonstrate essential similarity is routine, physical testing requires more sophisticated investigations. This required expertise in understanding the complex behaviour of materials under shear, as Colin Brown, Director of Research & Quality Development at Mentholatum, explains;

"ECFP has been able to identify solutions that could improve production processes such that the operational efficiencies can be realised in due course. Utilising modern scientific techniques to generate new data, even for well-established products like Deep Heat Rub, represents an exciting opportunity to extend our products' life cycles. The data these studies yield will give us the chance to enhance product performance and optimise commercial production. We also see the use of these techniques as an important part of our product development strategy.

Understanding the complex behaviour of current and future formulations is essential. These innovations will help modernise existing products, create next generation prototypes and enhance our competitive position as market leader."

The Mentholatum Company Ltd has a reputation spanning over 100 years in manufacturing some iconic healthcare products, including Deep Heat™, Deep Freeze and Deep Relief™, which they supply to markets in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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