Atomic Layer Deposition for Pharmaceutical Powders

Tim Porcelli Field Applications Engineer

Atomic Layer Deposition for Pharmaceutical Powders

The global pharmaceutical manufacturing market size was valued at $405 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.34% from 2021 to 2028. The pharmaceutical industry processes a wide variety of powder materials, from active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to filler materials for use in divided powders. Powders are processed into capsules, tablets, pellets, inhaler doses or ophthalmic treatments such as eye drops. Pharmaceutical powders are predominately organic solids with poor flowability, wettability, compactability, and dispersion, making manufacturing of accurate doses both expensive and time intensive. Biocompatible atomic layer deposition (ALD) coatings can improve flowability, compactability, and particle dispersion enhancing powder processability.





Eliminates the need for refrigeration.


Triples the flowability of an amorphous material.

Tunable Wettability

Ability to tune the water contact angle of a surface from anywhere between 60 degrees to 150 degrees.

  • Improved flowability
  • Chemically inert and biocompatible films
  • Tunable wettability/dispersibility
  • Accelerated in-vitro disintegration
  • Thermostable storage
  • Single-administration doses


API powders are frequently in amorphous or hydrate states, which makes manufacturing processing difficult unless the powders are coated. ALD can improve the flowability of powder without chemically changing the bulk particle. In a 2019 study, five TiO2 ALD layers on the particle surface were enough to quadruple the flowability of a partially crystalline material and to triple the flowability of an amorphous material, yet the coating process did not change the solid form of the materials and did not affect other critical characteristics related to the functionality of the materials.

ALD Tunable Wettability & Dispersibility

Wettability is a vital characteristic of drug powders as it impacts dispersibility, which is the ability to break down into particles when in contact with body fluids. Tuning the wetting properties of inhaled drug powders have been found to improve bioavailability, increase dispersion, and prevent moisture ingress. ALD and molecular layer deposition (MLD) have been used to tune wettability of drug powders in the spectrum of highly hydrophilic to superhydrophobic. In a study from March 2021… 

Download paper below for more details.

Thermostability and Single-Administration

Two components that affect the global distribution of vaccines are the cold-storage requirements and need for multiple doses in the form of “booster shots” in order to maximize vaccine efficacy. In a 2020 study from Nature – Vaccines, researchers from the University of Colorado…

Download paper below for more details.


1 “Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Market Size Report, 2021-2028.” Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Market Size Report, 2021-2028, Grandview Research Reports, July 2021,

2 Sari Airaksinen, Milja Karjalainen, Anna Shevchenko, Sari Westermarck, Ella Leppänen, Jukka Rantanen, Jouko Yliruusi, Role of Water in the Physical Stability of Solid Dosage Formulations, Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Volume 94, Issue 10, 2005, Pages 2147-2165, ISSN 0022-3549,

3 “Improving Powder Characteristics by Surface Modification Using Atomic Layer Deposition” Cosima Hirschberg, Nikolaj Sølvkær Jensen, Johan Boetker, Anders Østergaard Madsen, Tommi O. Kääriäinen, Marja-Leena Kääriäinen, Pekka Hoppu, Steven M. George, et Al, Organic Process Research & Development 2019 23 (11), 2362-2368

4 Damiano La Zara, Fuweng Zhang, Feilong Sun, Maximilian R. Bailey, Michael J. Quayle, Gunilla Petersson, Staffan Folestad, J. Ruud van Ommen, Drug powders with tunable wettability by atomic and molecular layer deposition: From highly hydrophilic to superhydrophobic, Applied Materials Today, Volume 22, 2021, 100945, ISSN 2352-9407,

5 Zhang, D., et al. “Atomic Scale Surface Engineering of Micro- to Nano-Sized Pharmaceutical Particles for Drug Delivery Applications.” Nanoscale, vol. 9, no. 32, 2017, pp. 11410–11417., doi:10.1039/c7nr03261g.

6 Garcea, R.L., Meinerz, N.M., Dong, M. et al. Single-administration, thermostable human papillomavirus vaccines prepared with atomic layer deposition technology. npj Vaccines 5, 45 (2020).

7 Inc., Forge Nano. “Vaccines Perfected from the Atoms Up.” Vaccines Perfected From the Atoms Up, 25 May 2021,