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Little bit of help for science fair project please

  1. May 29, 2013 #1
    Little bit of help for science fair project please!!

    Hi guys, I am 13 years old and I am a new member on this forum and I need help with a science fair project.

    For my project I am showing how companies make tablets so I need to learn how to make a tablet. I did some research but some of the details are confusing so I would appreciate your help!

    This is what I have so far. I took some pieces of chalk and crushed them so that only powder is left because all tablets start off as powder. The process that I have to follow requires me to make the powder into a solid again. I asked my dad for some help and he made something for me called a pollen press. He said that I can put the powder inside of the pollen press and the press will make the powder into a solid. But I read on some websites that companies use an expensive type of press called a pill press (which basically does the same thing as a pollen press), but that there are other things you have to do first because otherwise the tablet is not strong enough and will crumble.

    One of the things you have to do is add something called a binding agent into the powder to make the grains stick together, which will make the tablet more solid in the end. I read that for tablets you don't use a binding agent that is super strong (don't use one that you would use for concrete, for example). Some of the binding agents that they use are povidone, xanthan gum and carbopol. They also use something called a filler to just take up volume in the pill (to make it bigger). Sometimes the binding agent is also used as a filler.

    My only problem is that I can't find any information on how to use a binding agent. So I just pour it in with the powdered chalk that I have? Do I make some type of solution? Do I add heat or anything like that? This is the main part where I am confused.

    I would be very thankful for any help I can get. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 29, 2013 #2


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    I assume it should be MIXED with the powder to give the powder just the slightest moistness.

    Here's the thing. If you want to learn, you do two things. (1) EXACTLY what you have done so far (research) and then (2) TRY THINGS OUT

    Do that and then YOU can tell US what works and what doesn't and that can be part of your report.
  4. May 29, 2013 #3
    I have to echo what phinds has said. You are doing a science project and have come upon a question. Maybe you should structure you science project to under which conditions you get a reasonable pill. First thing I would do is try adding different amounts of the binding agent, then press the pill. Numbers always impress science people so if you can then figure out a way to measure how brittle the pill is, then you can use that as a way to get some numbers out.

    Off the top of my head you can try using some type of commercial pill as your standard, say aspirin or whatever. Try dropping some amount of weight on the pill from different heights until you get a weight or height which breaks the pill. Here you should vary either the height or the weight, whatever seems more practical for you. That would be what you are trying to get your pills to do. Now make your pill mixture have different amounts of binding agent, keep the weight of everything the same and vary the ratios of weights of your powder to binding mixture. Then repeat your dropping experiment to each of these pills and see what is happening. If you get a mixture which withstands the same forces as your commercial sample, you have a winner. Maybe you can make it better (but you wouldn't necessarily want to, right?). You can make up some tables with the ratios of mixtures, the weight or height etc and draw some conclusions. You can try to make a graph if you think you have a trend.

    Its a science fair project, have fun and do some experiments. That's the whole point.
  5. May 30, 2013 #4
    Gelatin can be used as a binding agent, though it may be too strong. I would suggest mixing some with your pill and hot water and see if it works with the press. A little bit of egg might work better. Good luck with your project.
  6. Jun 19, 2013 #5
    Sorry for this late reply, I have been very busy with a family emergency!

    I have done many experiments and trial and errors, but there is one problem that I cannot solve. The pill is always too brittle. It is in a pill form when I take it out of the press, but when handling, it just completely crumbles.

    This is what I did: Instead of using chalk, I used dextrose (a sugar replacement) as my "active ingrediant". I mixed it with xanthan gum (I read this is a common binding agent used in pills), and I sprayed a little bit of water on it. It got a bit damp and clumpy. Then I put the mixture in the press, I pressed it and left it for about 8 hours. When I took it out, it was like like a tablet. But then it crumbled while I was handling it.

    I tried pressing it for different periods of time and the same thing would always happen. What's the problem? Is it possible that the press I am using doesn't apply enough pressure? Or is it possible that i need to let it press for even longer, like a couple days?
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2013
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