Direct image feature extraction and multivariate analysis for crystallisation process characterisation

Doerr, Frederik J. S. and Brown, Cameron J. and Florence, Alastair J. (2022) Direct image feature extraction and multivariate analysis for crystallisation process characterisation. Crystal Growth and Design, 22 (4). pp. 2105-2116. ISSN 1528-7483 (

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Small-scale crystallization experiments (1-8 mL) are widely used during early-stage crystallization process development to obtain initial information on solubility, metastable zone width, as well as attainable nucleation and/or growth kinetics in a material-efficient manner. Digital imaging is used to monitor these experiments either providing qualitative information or for object detection coupled with size and shape characterization. In this study, a novel approach for the routine characterization of image data from such crystallization experiments is presented employing methodologies for direct image feature extraction. A total of 80 image features were extracted based on simple image statistics, histogram parametrization, and a series of targeted image transformations to assess local grayscale characteristics. These features were utilized for applications of clear/cloud point detection and crystal suspension density prediction. Compared to commonly used transmission-based methods (mean absolute error 8.99 mg/mL), the image-based detection method is significantly more accurate for clear and cloud point detection with a mean absolute error of 0.42 mg/mL against a manually assessed ground truth. Extracted image features were further used as part of a partial least-squares regression (PLSR) model to successfully predict crystal suspension densities up to 40 mg/mL (R2 > 0.81, Q2 > 0.83). These quantitative measurements reliably provide crucial information on composition and kinetics for early parameter estimation and process modeling. The image analysis methodologies have a great potential to be translated to other imaging techniques for process monitoring of key physical parameters to accelerate the development and control of particle/crystallization processes.