Investigation of the Rheological Properties of Methylcellulose in Pharmaceutical Products

Methylcellulose is used in the pharmaceutical industry for a wide range of different applications from solid to liquid. Therefore it is important to generate as much information as precisely as possible about the substance. Rheological measurements can provide valuable information for production, filling and storage. Continuous quality control is essential in order to maintain consistently high quality. Tests like oscillatory, thixotropic and temperature tests on methylcellulose at different concentrations were carried out. The viscoelastic behavior is illustrated and discussed.


Methylcellulose is a white, odorless, nontoxic, hydrophilic powder. It is used in a very wide range of applications in the pharmaceutical industry. It is used as a

  • gelling agent
  • thickener
  • suspension stabilizer
  • filler in capsules
  • binder in tablets
  • disintegrant

In contrast to cellulose, methylcellulose dissolves well in cold water. The solubility is highly dependent on the temperature and pH-value of the solvent. The viscosity and the gelation behavior are strongly temperature-dependent.

According to the Pharmacopoeia, liquid preparations, e.g. for ingestion, oral use or cutaneous use, may contain viscosity-increasing additives. Suspensions and solutions for ingestion are of particular interest for children, geriatric patients or patients with problems swallowing. For semisolid (cream and hydrogel) preparations for cutaneous use, the Pharmacopoeia also permits the addition of stabilizers and thickeners. Stabilizers prevent unwanted chemical and physical changes caused by oxidation, temperature, UV light, etc. in unstable substances or mixtures. Cellulose derivatives are mainly used in the formulation of hydrophilic gels.[1][3]

Rheological measurement parameters can provide information about the viscoelastic behavior, the structural stability and the temperature behavior of the compound. Using this information, it is possible to evaluate measures to be taken concerning formulation, production, transport and storage.

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