Throughout history; man has struggled with developing better medicine, equipments and facilities to improve the treatment process. Ampoules are hermetically sealed glass containers that are used to store medicine aseptically. These containers have changed the industry by introducing a safe, aseptic and effective way of storing, transporting and using liquid and powder medications.
History of ampoules
The use of ampoule like containers to store liquids dates back hundreds of years. Early martyrs used to preserve blood of the dead martyrs in an ampoule like container as a way of preparing the dead for resurrection.
In France, a holy ampoule was used to preserve the anointing oil used in the coronation of French Monarch. This ritual began as early as 1131 and oil was passed through generations and this container kept it intact. By 1840, these ampoules were used to store chloroform applied as an anesthetic in most healthcare institutions.
In 1890, the first hermetically sealed glass module was developed by French pharmacist Stanislaus limousine. Limousine developed this technology in order to solve the rampant problem of inject-able solutions which deteriorated or became contaminated during transportation. This small glass bottle had a tapered neck – just like today – and was sealed with an open flame after filling.
Currently, there are many variations of an ampoule but the basic structure still remains the same. They are manufactured by cutting and shaping glass tubes using hot flame. These containers are either made of plastic of glass and carry chemicals or biological agents. The main constituents include inject-able solutions, air sensitive chemicals, hygroscopic materials, medicines (liquid and powder), and analytical materials.
Ampoule filling technologies
Ampoules are filled using modern and sophisticated machines that ensure safety and no contamination during the filling process. The machines are classified based on the type of materials that range from liquids, suspensions, powders and granules.
Liquid filling machines clean ampoules fill and seal them. These machines utilize various technologies to increase safety, aseptic conditions, quality and speed. Advanced features include: automatic ampoules handling and centering; cleaning, washing and sterilization using nitrogen gas; multiple head machines that perform filling of many bottles simultaneously and automatic control using programmable logic controllers to ensure precision. These machines are automatic and hence no human contamination. In addition, the equipment has labeling and sealing section to increase throughput.
Specialized machines are also used to micro dose powders onto these containers. They have a means of metering the filling powder which can be auger or a piston. This system draws a precise amount of powder or granules which is them delivered to the ampoules through a compressed air jets, mechanical or vibrating fillers or using a vacuum. The system also includes washing, sealing and labeling sections.
The open flame still remains the most common sealing method. To open the ampoule, a seal is snapped off causing the good break without glass shredding. Tip and pull sealing are the most common techniques.
In tip sealing, heat is uniformly applied around the neck on all sides to cause melting and formation of a bead. Tip seals are common in liquid filled ampoules.
Pull seal on the other hand are used for containers filled with powder since they require a large opening. The neck is heated with a burner until the glass softens. A mechanical device is then used to pull and twist the top.