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Chapter 14

The Basic Principles


of Low-Energy
Emulsification (LEE)
Three Fundamental Principles in LEE Application

In the last chapter I tried to show that more is not always better or more rewarding
for us; a more expensive solution does not always bring a more satisfactory result
and more energy input does not always guarantee increased productivity. Frequently,
the input/output relationship is nonlinear and we must ascertain if we have already
passed the Z point, the maximum point beyond which efficiency in a system starts
to decline. However, we are so accustomed to linear thinking and acting in accordance with that thinking that the presence of a Z Point is not always obvious to us.
Unless we make a conscious effort to analyze the situation critically and try to identify its presence, we often follow old habits without realizing that we have already
passed the point of optimal efficiency.
Recall the example I cited in the last chapter: the development of grittiness in
a certain cosmetic emulsion was caused not by a lack of energy input, but rather
by the application of too much energy, which was, ironically, intended to solve the
problem caused by a slow crystal growth. While it is true that in many emulsions,
application of additional thermal and mechanical energy in the form of heating and
mixing will generally reduce the average droplet size, in this particular formulation, however, it promoted supersaturation and slow crystal growth which degraded
product quality. Had we paused and spent some time investigating the cause, instead
of acting reflexively, we would have realized that we had already passed the Z Point,
and would not have made the mistake of thinking that more of the same input
(heating and mixing) would lead to an increase in the output (reduced droplet size).
Clearly, this assumption can easily lead us to not only waste energy but also reduce
productivity, and even worse, degrade product quality.
The basic principle of Low-Energy Emulsification (LEE) is quite simple. It is
based on my observation that in commercial manufacturing of cosmetic emulsions,
we often use far more energy than is needed. By a more creative management and
targeted application of energy, it is possible to substantially reduce the amount of
energy spent on processing many cosmetic products, and improve manufacturing

Manufacturing Cosmetic Emulsions

The Basic Principles

productivity by the Less Is More principle I outlined in Chapter 13, The Principle
of Less Is More. Although the examples cited in this book are mainly cosmetic
emulsions, this same principle can be applied in manufacturing many other types of
products, such as pharmaceutical, industrial or food emulsions, and even non-emulsion products like a clear shampoo.
The three fundamental principles in LEE applications are:
1. Use energy only where needed;
2. Use energy only when needed; and
3. Use only the amount needed.
Basically, LEE is about energy management. By using a more selective and
rational application of energy to process emulsions, we can save energy without
sacrificing product quality or process efficiency. LEE is about changing the manufacturing procedure, without changing the formula or buying new equipment, to
optimize energy usage. Simple. The price we must pay, however, is that, as we know,
by changing the manufacturing procedure in an emulsion production, we are introducing a process variable. As I pointed out in Chapter 7, Pilot Batches, Scale-Up
and Controlling Process Variables, changing how we put together an emulsion may
have as much affect as changing the formula. Therefore, it is important to understand the science and art of controlling such variables in LEE processing so that the
product quality will not be compromised. Certainly, it will be necessary to carry out
some laboratory and pilot experiments to determine the best condition or procedure
for a given formulation. However, when correctly applied, LEE can be extremely
rewarding because it offers many other advantages in addition to energy saving.

Reducing Energy and Other Advantages of LEE


Processing

Rising energy costs and increasingly frequent signs of global warming are making
it clear that energy conservation is important now and will become even more
critical in the near future for all manufacturing operations which require energy
use. Frequently, energy conservation requires purchasing of new, expensive energyefficient equipment or some sacrifice in operating efficiency or productivity. LEE is
unique. For most applications, it does not require new equipment or a compromise
in productivity. The four major advantages of using LEE are:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Reduced energy consumption;


Reduced manufacturing cost through increased productivity;
Reduced investment in process equipment;
And, in some cases, improved product quality.

The first benefit is quite obvious from the use of less energy. The last benefit of
improved product quality does not happen in all applications, but can be realized
in some cases. The example cited at the beginning of this chapter is an instance of
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improving product quality by reducing energy input. In this case, the excess energy
supplied to the crystals actually caused the product degradation. By eliminating this
excess energy, the product quality was improved. Additional examples of improved
product quality achieved through reduced energy input will be discussed in the next
chapter.
The second and third benefitsincreased productivity and reduced capital
investment on equipment by using less energymay seem counterintuitive, but it
is not difficult to understand if we examine how we generally use energy in commercial production of cosmetic emulsions. Three basic methods are used in making
most commercial cosmetic emulsions: batch processing, continuous processing
and semi-continuous processing. In all three methods, two major forms of energy
are used in production. Thermal energy is used to heat raw materials, to melt waxy
materials and to facilitate emulsification, and mechanical energy is supplied to
blend, mix and emulsify the product. Mixers, homogenizers or colloid mills are
often used to supply mechanical energy to reduce the droplet sizes for smooth
texture and to assure emulsion stability.
As illustrated in Figure 14.1A, batch processing using two jacketed kettles is
most widely used in manufacturing cosmetic emulsions. It is relatively inexpensive
to construct this type of manufacturing system, and it is simple to operate and offers
flexibility in processing. A large majority of cosmetic emulsions is of the oil-in-water
(o/w) type in which the internal phase (oil phase) consists mostly of a blend of
natural or synthetic oils plus some waxy materials and other oil soluble ingredients.
Typically, the external phase consists of a large portion of water plus many water
dispersible ingredients. Emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilizers and other materials may
be placed in either the oil phase or water phase.
Both phases are first heated in two separate kettles by introducing steam in the
jacket, and mixed to melt and dissolve all ingredients. The second step is combining the two phases to start emulsification, usually by introducing the internal phase
liquid in the smaller upper kettle into the larger processing tank containing the
external phase liquid with mixing. A high-speed mixer or a homogenizer may be
used to reduce droplet size for improved stability. The batch is then cooled by introducing cold water or a refrigerated fluid in the jacket of the processing kettle. The
mixing cooling process continues until the batch reaches a desired temperature,
usually about 3538C.
The continuous process illustrated in Figure 14.1B is an efficient method for
producing a very large quantity of an emulsion. Although such system can be used
in manufacturing cosmetic emulsions, it is more commonly used in processing food
and industrial emulsions where the same product is made day after day. The oil
phase and the water phase are first blended and heated to a predetermined temperature in two separate kettles. The two phases are pumped at precisely controlled
rates through a high-intensity mixer where they instantly form an emulsion. The hot
emulsion produced is then passed through one or more heat exchangers to cool the
product to an appropriate temperature for storage in a tank or filling in containers.
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Manufacturing Cosmetic Emulsions

The Basic Principles

It is an ideal way to process a very large amount of emulsion, but requires more
expensive equipment and precise control of mixing and flow rates to assure product consistency. Since it requires a significant amount of time to clean the line and
adjust operating conditions, it is generally not suitable for making small quantities of
product. For this reason, a continuous system is not often used by cosmetic manufacturers.
The third method illustrated in Figure 14.1C is a semi-continuous method,
which is a hybrid of the other two methods discussed. I have seen this type of setup

Figure 14.1. Three Methods of Emulsion Processing

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in many Japanese cosmetic factories. In this variation, a hot emulsion is first made
by a batch process, using a method similar to that shown in 14.1A. Instead of cooling the batch in the process kettle by circulating cold water, the hot emulsion is
passed through one or more heat exchangers to cool the product instantly. In processing a very large batch of a cosmetic cream, a great deal of time may be required
for cooling the batch if the cream is very viscous or if the mixing in the processing
kettle is not efficient. A scraped surface heat exchanger as used here is very efficient
in cooling a viscous product and can be used to reduce the cooling time required in
batch processing. The Votator Scraped Surface Heat Exchanger, made by Chemetron
Corporation in the United States, is an example of this type of equipment often used
in emulsion processing.1
Even though a cosmetic emulsion can be processed by three different methods,
all of them require both thermal and mechanical energy input to heat, mix and dissolve the ingredients and to form stable emulsions. In batch processing, for example,
some of the thermal energy used to melt the wax and heat both phases is removed
later after emulsification by cooling with cooling water. The energy removed by the
cooling water is generally discarded along with the water; this energy is not utilized,
and is therefore wasted.
In batch processing, the step requiring the most time is usually cooling, particularly if the batch size is large and the viscosity of the product is high. This time
is necessary because the surface area available for cooling per unit weight of the
product decreases as batch size increases, reducing the efficiency of cooling. A heavy
cream can make mixing inefficient, causing a further reduction in heat transfer
(cooling) efficiency; a 5000 gallon batch could require many hours of mixing and
cooling. Using heat exchangers and refrigerated fluid can reduce cooling time in
large batches, but this practice requires using even more energy to discard the excess
energy. A better approach, I submit, is to use less energy to start, so that less energy
will be discarded later. This more efficient use of energy is the principle behind LEE.
The result is not only energy saving, but also improvement in productivity because it
will now take much less time to cool the batch. It can also eliminate the need to buy
an expensive larger refrigerated system for batch cooling or additional heat exchangers needed for continuous or semi-continuous processing. Although LEE can be
easily adopted for use in all three types of processing methods described here, batch
process will be used in demonstrating various LEE applications since most emulsion
products are manufactured using this method at cosmetic factories.
Before we jump into applications of LEE, let us first consider the Z Point for
emulsion processing. We can start by first asking how much energy is theoretically
required in making, say, 1000 kg of a typical cosmetic emulsion, and compare this
amount with the amount typically used in making the emulsion in a cosmetic factory. A precise calculation is difficult because so many complex factors are involved.
However, we can obtain a rough estimate of the theoretical energy requirement
by using the following equation for determining the theoretical amount of energy
required to create the new surface resulting from emulsification.2
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