Formula VIII – Barcelona July 4-7th 2016

The Formula series of international conferences is probably the major gathering of product formulators taking place anywhere today. These conferences initially arose from recognition of the need to change the commonplace methodology underpinning formulation from the art of “shelf-galloping1” to a more scientific approach. Moreover, it became more and more apparent that problems such as product stability, targeted delivery and rheology control often had solutions that could be applied across a range of industries. Hence the Formula events grow in popularity with both Industrial and Academic researchers. An important objective of the organisers has been to encourage equal participation of the two groups.

The latest Formula event (Formula VIII) has just been held in Barcelona during July 5-7th.  Titles of the presentations can be found on the conference website. The local organising team from the Catalan Institute of Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC), the University of Barcelona and the Spanish Committee of Detergency, Surfactants and Related Products (CED) aided by the International Advisory Board was led by Professor Jordi Esquena are to be congratulated on the trouble-free running of the meeting. They were of course helped by the sunny weather, which has managed to avoid most parts of the UK this year. A few details of the meeting statistics serve to demonstrate the success and impact of the conference. There were ca. 300 participants from 25 countries, confirming the international audience for Formulation.  Of these, a large majority were from Europe. Almost half of the participants were from Industry. In addition to the 10 invited talks there were ca. 85 oral contributions and 95 posters. Over 40% of the oral contributions were from Industry, while a large majority of posters were from academia.

Of particular interest to the FSTG were the sessions on NanoFormulation:  integrating nanomaterials in formulation and formulating at the nanoscale. These are the continuation of the Inform series of conferences initiated through an EU coordination action funded by FP7 and led by the FSTG. The four sessions on the subject clearly demonstrate that things-nano are of continuing interest, with commercial application and numerous potential applications were showcased.

For any formulation conference the main subjects are the optimisation of actives in colloids, interfaces, particles, polymers and surfactants. This conference is no exception, but applications of these principle from coatings to electronics were also presented. Applications ranged from magnetic foams (Rodriguez Abreu, INL Portugal), super hydrophobic coatings for solar cells (Sanchez CIMAV Monterrey, Mexico), and polymer brushes for ink-jet printing (Yeates, University of Manchester, UK), to drug delivery (Garti, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel) and nanoemulsions inspired by deep-sea processes (Deguchi, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Japan).

In looking for highlights we encounter the usual problem with identifying the most interesting contributions. There is always general agreement that about one third of the papers are outside the immediate interests but there is no agreement on which papers are included in this category. Hence the selection of highlights is very subjective. Of course, the plenary lectures were selected to be highlights, and they were - a view of the future with virtual reality processes, a tour de force on Janus particles and a fascinating insight into how soft matter preserves our cultural heritage! 

In the following we select a number of subjective highlights. Among the oral contributions on surfactants (OC20) a novel alkylglucoside with controlled and monodisperse head group size (unlike current APG’s) of 4-20 hexose units is described. This can be made from naturally derived materials by a low energy process. Because of the versatility due to the large range of head group size the potential applications are large.  In a completely different system, an emulsion to control the ripening of apples for application in the orchard was described (OC46). 1-methyl cyclopropene prevents ripening, hence giving more control during transport and storage, and an improved product in supermarkets. I found particular inspiring the plenary talk by Dr Jinghai Li from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where the achievements and challenges in multiscale modelling relevant to process design and product formulation were discussed. Contributed talks from Estelle Illous (University of Lille, France), Alessandro Patti and Javier Burgos (University of Manchester, UK), showed the potential for modelling and simulation tools to predict physical properties of complex systems, understand nucleation and growth of colloidal crystals, and the dynamics of polymer melts. I also enjoyed the presentation by Sabrina Marchioretto, from Dow Corning (Belgium), where she clearly showed different facets of product formulation, from understanding and quantifying the problem, to assessing the benefits of different formulations.

The conference provided a fantastic opportunity to network with a diverse community, and FSTG excited to be hosting Formula IX in Manchester in 2019, with Flor Siperstein leading the organising committee.


(Flor, Simon to add their specific items)

Flor – please add a couple of sentences on Formula IX in Manchester.
Do we need to clear this with Jordi? (GJTT says yes) He might suggest sentences about the other Spanish groups.

1) See Garrett, P,  Tiddy, G J T and Treiner, C,  C OLLOIDS AND SURFACES A-PHYSICOCHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING ASPECTS Volume: 288, Issue: 1-3, pages: 1-2  2006.  (DOI: 10.1016/j.colsurfa.2006.07.022 )