Research Foundation News

August 28, 2019

Novel device to improve powder flow

New device shown to protect integrity of food and drug products, improve consistency in flow

flow bin A new device created at Purdue University is designed to protect the integrity of drug and food products, while improving the consistency in flow. (Image provided) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Anyone who has tried to pour powdered sugar into a jar knows that sometimes beating the sides of the container or package is the only way to make it flow. That same process is used in making medicines and products such as powdered milk, where workers routinely hammer on the sides of large bins to unstick the powdery mixture.

Purdue University researchers have developed technology to help improve the process and reduce the need for the hammering in production. The team created a flow aid that can be placed inside a bin and controlled with Bluetooth.

“This device directly transfers vibration energy to the powders without affecting the structural integrity of the bin,” said Kingsly Ambrose, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, who leads the team with Karthik Salish, an engineering graduate research assistant. “This device could also monitor powder parameters like temperature, humidity and pressure, which in turn indicate any change in quality.”

Erratic flow in the powder mixture is a common problem in the manufacturing industry. Some of the powder can stick to the sides of the bin or clog in the middle of it, resulting in deficiencies in the powder and final product.

“There are flow aids that can be used outside the bin,” Ambrose said. “These aids present numerous problems in reliability, are typically very expensive and require additional support such as compressors.”

flow bluetooth A Purdue University team created a flow aid that can be placed inside a bin and controlled with Bluetooth. (Image provided) Download image

Ambrose said the device developed at Purdue also allows the user to control the vibration intensity and location to provide a consistent powder product. He said the device also has applications for the agricultural and grain industries.

The team worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization for a provisional patent on the device. They are seeking additional partners. For more information, contact

The technology and research aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements made in health and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are two of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization           

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University.   

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341,  

Source: Kingsly Ambrose,

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