New CSIRO imaging software means consumers could be confident their tablets contain exactly what their packaging says.
The software will be highlighted at BIO2005, the world's largest biotechnology conference on 19-22 June in Philadelphia in the USA.
CSIRO's hyperspectral imaging software can be used by pharmaceutical companies for production line quality assurance during manufacture of tablets.
The software measures the amounts of therapeutic and filler ingredients in tablets and tells whether they are evenly distributed, and can also tell whether the tablet includes ingredients which shouldn't be there.
Dr Mark Berman is a CSIRO expert in image analysis who co-developed the software. He says the technology depends on the spectra produced when chemicals interact with different wavelengths of light.
“Every chemical has a unique spectrum, a wobbly line which functions a bit like a person's signature”, says Dr Berman.
“When chemicals are mixed together, like the ingredients in tablets, the spectrum gets complicated. Our software can separate the mixture's spectrum into its pure components, even when an individual chemical's spectrum isn't known”.
The software records a spectrum for each pixel in an image of the tablet, giving information about how the chemical content varies throughout.
It has been adapted from hyperspectral imaging software used for airborne mineral exploration, which looks for variations in mineral content over the land.
“We can bring hyperspectral imaging 'down to earth' for uses like tablet inspection and tissue analysis because better, more compact hyperspectral cameras and microscopes have recently been developed. The maths behind the software is very similar”, says Dr Berman.