Alginates as therapeutic and drug delivery systems

  • Keith G. Hutchison

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Alginate is widely used as a viscosity enhancer in many different pharmaceutical formulations. The aim of this thesis is to quantitatively describe the functions of this polyelectrolyte in pharmaceutical systems. To do this the techniques used were Viscometry, Light Scattering, Continuous and Oscillatory Shear Rheometry, Numerical Analysis and Diffusion.
Molecular characterization of the Alginate was carried out using Viscometry and Light Scattering to determine the molecular weight, the radius of gyration, the second virial coefficient and the Kuhn statistical segment length. The results showed good agreement with similar parameters obtained in previous studies.
By blending Alginate with other polyelectrolytes, Xanthan Gum and 'Carbopol', in various proportions and with various methods of low and high shear preparation, a very wide range of dynamic rheological properties was found. Using oscillatory testing, the parameters often varied over several decades of magnitude. It was shown that the determination of the viscous and elastic components is
particularly useful in describing the rheological 'profiles' of suspending agent blends and provides a step towards the non-empirical formulation of pharmaceutical disperse systems.
Using numerical analysis of equations describing planar diffusion, it was shown that the analysis of drug release profiles alone does not provide unambiguous information about the mechanism of rate control. These principles were applied to the diffusion of Ibuprofen in Calcium Alginate gels. For diffusion in such non-Newtonian systems, emphasis was placed on the use of the elastic as well as the viscous component of viscoelasticity. It was found that the diffusion coefficients were relatively unaffected by increases in polymer concentration up to 5 per cent, yet the elasticities measured by oscillatory shear rheometry were increased. This was interpreted in the light of several theories of diffusion in gels.
Date of AwardSept 1982
Original languageEnglish


  • Alginate
  • diffusion
  • rheogoniometer
  • suspending agents
  • viscoelasticity

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