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Exploring the Applications of Heat Exchangers in Pharmaceutical Production


Pharmaceutical processes require a level of attention to detail higher than most other industries. Details regarding hygiene, possibilities of contamination, temperature and pressure conditions, and so much more – we couldn’t list them all here right now. But when it comes to major pharmaceutical concerns like maintaining ideal environmental conditions for the fine biochemistry that is in play, the application of heat exchanger technologies plays a crucial role.

Not only must heat exchangers deliver precise results in terms of degree of heating or cooling, but they must also maintain all the sanitary standards expected of a pharmaceutical operation. Gaps that result in leakage at welded spots? Dead legs which bacteria might start to inhabit? Cross contamination between product and service fluids? There is no room for any of these errors. Compromises in safety, quality and efficiency are unacceptable in pharma production, and heat exchanger application in sanitary industries is designed to be foolproof to protect against any such mishaps.

We cannot highlight enough the importance of an efficient heat exchanger because of just how ubiquitous heat transfer is in pharmaceutical cleaning, production, storage and packaging. Heat is the form of energy used to carry out a number of tasks – right from preventing overheating of electrical circuits to sterilising equipment and products for the safety of the humans who will use the latter. The appropriate design and application of heat exchanger technologies can transform the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your operations, leading to long-term sustainability and profitability for your business.

Types, benefits and application of heat exchanger technologies

Heat exchangers reveal what they do in their name. A heat exchanger is an energy exchange system – essentially, it is used for heating or cooling in industrial settings. Heat exchanger applications vary from biodiesel and paint industries to HVAC and sanitary industries like F&B and pharma. They may be used to manage electrical waste or allow specific biochemical reactions to take place. Heat exchanger applications are many and corresponding to the purpose of their use, there are also different geometries, features and designs of heat exchangers.

There are shell and tube, welded plate, plate and gasket, spiral, and scraped surface heat exchangers out there in the market. Amongst themselves, these types cover pretty much every application of heat exchanger technology that different industries need.

The primary benefits of using appropriate heat transfer systems in pharma are minimising waste and reducing costs. Depending on their specific application, heat exchangers also have a number of other benefits – the application of double tube sheet heat exchanger, for instance, is particularly suited to pharmaceutical production as it eliminates contamination risks.

Why are heat exchangers important in hygienic industries?

In hygienic industries, heat exchangers are the best energy transfer option. Be it in food and beverage, dairy, biotech, pharma or personal care products, there is not even an inch of room for error due to the safety implications for the end users of the products. Further, cleaning and sterilisation activities are central to ensuring these products are fit for human consumption. Improperly carried out biochemical reactions or contamination with endotoxins can affect not only the safety of your customers, but also the trust they have in your brand.

What are the applications of heat exchangers in pharma?

The specific application of double tube sheet heat exchangers, welded plate heat exchangers, and plate and gasket heat exchangers vary and may be used differently by different industries and different manufacturers. But there are some general heat exchanger applications in the pharma industry which we will have a look at here.

Preparation of pharma compounds

As a manufacturer of pharmaceutical preparations, you will need to mix APIs and excipients under specific pH, temperature and pressure conditions in compounding vessels. Attaining these specific temperature conditions is of critical importance and heat exchangers come to the rescue here. Heat exchangers may also be of use in processes like crystallisation, evaporation, vapour condensation, distillation, solvent recovery, drying or any other change of state of products which may be required in the pharma manufacturing process.

Cleaning and sterilisation

Most modern pharmaceutical manufacturing operations utilise CIP and SIP integrations to maintain the cleanliness and sterility of their equipment. For CIP or clean in place, purified water at high temperatures is often used for initial and final rinses; heat exchangers have the job of maintaining and delivering this water at the required temperature. As for SIP or sterilisation in place, this involves the complete removal of any microbial activity from the surfaces which your sterile raw materials or final preparations might come in contact with. Sterilisation is carried out using wet or dry forms of heat, which might be achieved using heat exchangers.

Pure steam, water for injection, and purified water generation

Achieving high purity water levels like purified water, water for injection (WFI), and pure steamrequires high levels of heat to eliminate any and all microbial activity and make the water suitable for pharmaceutical use as an excipient or otherwise. The application of heat exchanger technologies is necessary to maintain the high temperatures required while still bring cost-effective and not wasting excess energy in the process.

Point of use cooling

Heat exchanger applications involve not just heating but also cooling. Process piping and other equipment for pure water storage and distribution is often a subloop in hot water systems, with the heat helping to keep them sanitized. But at the point of use, the subloops may have heat exchangers for specific point-of-use cooling of purified water and water for injection.

Waste heat management

Though not specifically a pharma or sanitary industry application of heat exchanger tech, heat exchangers may also be useful in managing electrical waste heat. Heat exchangers have been particularly beneficial to industries to consistently and reliably cool their equipment and technologies without excessive energy expenditure.

The application of double tube sheet heat exchanger technology in sanitary industries

Of the numerous uses and types of heat exchangers that we’ve discussed above, one particular one stands out as especially useful for the pharma industry. In double tube sheet heat exchangers, product media (or the substance you want to control the temperature of) flows through a series of seamless tubes; meanwhile, the service medium (or the fluid used to control the temperature of the system) is in a different crossflow around the tubes in the shell. In the off chance that there is a leak, it can be easily detected. And even still, the risk of the product medium and the service medium mixing and contaminating your final pharmaceutical preparation is eliminated. So the critical application of double tube sheet heat exchanger tech in pharma cannot be discounted.

 At the end of the day, your choice of heat exchanger can make the difference between sterility and contamination, between repeatability and inconsistency, between success and failure in your pharmaceutical facility. It can affect the efficacy and safety of your products, and by extension your production economy, your long term profitability, and your reputation in the market. 

Investing in high quality heat exchangers manufactured by partners you can trust is key. TSA’s custom designed heat exchangers come pre-passivated and ready to install. Not only are they easy to operate, but their seamless stainless steel 316L construction guarantees product safety and equipment durability. And validation documentation and AMCs give you the assurance of quality and a meaningful partnership you can rely on through the entire life cycle of the equipment. 

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For 20 years, we’ve been the go-to problem-solvers for high-purity and injectable process applications in the pharma and biopharma industry. We are relentless about continuous process improvement and upskilling, elevating ourselves and our technology so you can get the job done more efficiently with cost optimisations. Use the form below to schedule a call back from our team.

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