Natural crystals for the controlled release of active ingredients

Title of the research project

CryForm - Crystal Engineering the New Generation of Sustainable, Biocompatible and Stimuli Responsive Formulations for the Delivery of Active Ingredients

Scientific area 

Chemical engineering, Product design, Crystal Engineering


Elena Simone


The project will develop innovative natural crystals for the design of new formulations easily soluble and able to deliver active ingredients in a controlled way, to be used in the agrochemical, pharmaceutical and food industry.

Description of the research project

Recent progress in pharmacology and biotechnology has led to a dramatic increase in power and specificity of new generation drugs, active agrochemical ingredients and food nutraceuticals. At the same time, a problem remains in making these substances water soluble, because of their high molecular weight and complex structure. Multiphase systems (such as emulsions, foams and creams) can solve this problem but are traditionally produced with synthetic stabilizing agents, which can make them unsafe and contribute to CO2 production.

Cryform aims at replacing synthetic stabilizing agents with crystalline materials that are natural, biocompatible and biodegradable, that can enable the design of innovative multiphase formulations.

The project has three fundamental objectives that will make this “revolution” possible: the study of the relation between crystalline structure and macroscopic properties of solid particles, the analysis of the thermodynamic and kinetic mechanisms of crystal nucleation and growth, as well as and the understanding of the role of large biomolecules in in the kinetic stability of solid crystals.

These elements will allow substantial progress of the current fundamental understanding of crystallization of organic materials and allow the development of formulations that can be used for pharmaceutical, agrochemical and food products that are safer, more sustainable and also more affordable.

Impact on society 

The project tackles a major crystal engineering challenge and will generate new knowledge essential for the whole crystallization community. In particular, it will enable the design of biocompatible, safe and sustainable crystals to be used for pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations, and to develop new products for the food and agriculture industry that are able of controlled release of active ingredients.

In general, the project will contribute to the development of more sustainable manufacturing processes also at the industrial scale and will help the transition of the European Union to a modern and competitive economy, efficiently using resources, as it is necessary to achieve the European Green Deal.

Short CV of project coordinator 

Elena Simone is Associate professor in the Department of Applied Science and Technology of Politecnico di Torino. She holds a Bachelor and Master degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pisa (Italy) and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Loughborough University (UK). Visiting scholar and collaborator of the School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, USA, she was lecturer and leader of the Food Crystal Engineering Group at the University of Leeds from 2016 to 2021. Her current research focuses on the design of tailored crystals for the stabilization of multiphase formulations, using both molecular modelling and experimental techniques to understand how crystal structure affects surface and bulk properties of particulate materials. She is also committed to outreach to society and in 2018 she received a Public Engagement with Research Award from the University of Leeds.

CryForm project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme  grant agreement No 949229

  • Budget: 1.963.562 euro
  • Start date: 1/10/2021
  • End date: 30/09/2026